What is mistletoe and why do we kiss under it at Christmas?

Greenery and plants including holly, laurel, boxwood bushes, poinsettias, pine trees and mistletoe, play important roles in many of our holiday celebrations. Kissing under the mistletoe is one Christmastime’s most romantic – and most unusual – traditions.  But what is mistletoe and how did it become such a fabled part of Christmas while being mostly ignored the rest of the year?

Unlike most other holiday flowers, mistletoe isn’t exactly known for its beauty. In fact, the infamous yuletide plant is an invasive shrub that grows from the dung of birds and extracts nutrients from trees. While that may not be a glowing introduction to mistletoe, it does begin to explain why this plant has held people’s fascination for so long.

While it is true that mistletoe is semi-parasitic and could eventually kill its host plant, it is generally not considered a serious enough threat, in most cases, to warrant control measures. In fact, there is evidence that the plant could have benefits for birds as well as humans.

Several studies – including one from Billabong Creek in New South Wales, Australia and another from central Mexico have shown a significant drop in the populations of birds and other species in areas where scientists removed mistletoe from the ecosystem while populations increased or stayed the same in areas with mistletoe.

Those findings, along with other studies suggest that mistletoe is a keystone species that not only plays a critical role in its ecosystem but may also provide some promising health benefits to humans. Doctors at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine are studying mistletoe’s effects on cancer patients as a way to relieve side effects of chemotherapy, and physicians in Europe are able to prescribe mistletoe to their patients.

How did it become a holiday tradition?

Long before the internet, neighbors and relatives frequently visited each other during the holidays for fellowship. Houses were kept tidy and decorated for the holidays in order to be ready for any guests or visitors, so the decorations needed to be hearty enough to last for several weeks. Although the origins of kissing under the mistletoe are unclear, it was likely chosen in part because it stays green all winter long without being rooted in soil.

The earliest documented cases of kissing under the mistletoe date back to 16th century England where it was a very popular custom at the time, but it likely started even earlier. One Norse myth claims people began kissing under the plant as a peace offering after the god Balder was killed with a mistletoe arrow. Early European were so enamored with mistletoe plants that they became interwoven into myths, legends, and religious beliefs.

Literature is filled with examples of different uses that range anywhere from preventing fires to scaring away demons and protecting livestock from witchcraft. Throughout the ages, mistletoe was also commonly tied to fertility, which may be where the tradition started. Washington Irving wrote that men commonly gave women a kiss for each berry hanging on the mistletoe above them – plucking one off for each kiss.

Despite mistletoe’s continued popularity in Christmas carols, songs, and tales, the plant is not nearly as common as it used to be even though nearly everyone has heard of it. And, unlike the jolly old elf, there is nothing seasonal about mistletoe – it does not disappear when the season is over, it is simply forgotten about for several months each year until it makes its appearance in doorways across the world next year.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Alfa Flower & Wedding Shop! Start your holiday shopping today with our incredible selection of holiday flowers, gifts, and centerpieces. We offer same-day delivery in Milwaukee, WI and surrounding areas for birthdaysanniversariesnew babiesget well soon, sympathy, or even just because. Call us today at (414) 475-7080 or shop online 24/7.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…


Okay…okay…not quite yet. But, Labor Day is upon us which means that summertime is nearly over. And that, of course, means that it won’t be long until every consumable product in every store will be available in “pumpkin-spice” flavor and Halloween costume shops will begin filling in vacant strip malls on every block in town.

It wasn’t long ago that every holiday enjoyed its own special time starting a week or two after the proceeding holiday. Now back-to-school sales seem to start before the previous year is even over and we’re lucky if we can make it to Thanksgiving before we hear Bing Crosby dreaming of the white stuff.

Now, we’re not suggesting you rush out this weekend to procure the perfect tree – there will be plenty of time for that later – but we are implying that you may want to start thinking ahead to the flurry of festivities that accompany the holiday season and prepare early.

Office parties, kids’ parties, people to acknowledge, family members to remember…the list seems to multiply every year. But no matter how early stores start decking the halls, it’s easy to procrastinate and put off shopping until the last minute – when stores are crowded, lines are long, and shelves are picked over.

Why not start shopping now?

It’s never too early to begin thinking about holiday gift giving, and here at Alfa Flower & Wedding Shop we will help make your shopping a breeze. Did you know you can order your holiday flowers as early as you’d like? You won’t even be billed until the flowers are delivered, and if you ordered from us in the past, we probably have your order on file so you can see just what you sent last time that the boss loved so much.

Let us save you valuable time and ease the Black Friday frustration by taking care of all your floral needs. Imagine being able to cross off part of your holiday shopping list before the leaves even turn colors and hit the ground! From large corporate parties to simple bud vases, we’re here to assist you with any size order. We even go beyond flowers with beautiful green plants, poinsettias, and holiday gift baskets – perfect for everyone on your list!

The holidays may not be here yet, but they’re right around the corner. Don’t let them sneak up on you this year; one phone call to your friends at Alfa Flower & Wedding Shop (or several mouse clicks) is all it takes!