Ouray Hotel Honors the Tradition of Mistletoe at Christmas and where it came from.

We have all heard of or experienced the sweetly entertaining tradition of kissing under the Mistletoe at Christmas time, but does anyone really know the origin of this charming tradition?

If we travel back in time to ancient Scandinavia we may discover how it all came to be. Mistletoe was long believed to be a symbol of peace and joy. There was an ancient custom that if; while out in the woods you happened to find yourself standing under a mistletoe plant, upon encountering an enemy, you both must lay down your weapons and observe a truce until the next day. This custom eventually led to hanging a ball of mistletoe from the ceiling and exchanging kisses under it as a sign of friendship and goodwill.

The ancient Druids took mistletoe very seriously; they had a very elaborate ritual for gathering the mistletoe that sometimes could include human sacrifice. When harvesting the mistletoe the branches had to be caught before they touched the ground otherwise the plant would have lost its healing powers. The plant was then distributed amongst the people to be hung over doorways as protection against thunder, lightning and other evils. They would also place a sprig in a babies cradle to protect the child from Goblins. The Druids considered it to have magical properties so it was worn as a good luck charm and also placed over doorways to ward off evil spirits. And so any who entered through the doorway received a kiss as a seal of friendship.

One of the oldest myths about mistletoe was in regards to Baldur a Norse God. The story goes that Baldur, the god of sunshine and light, was the son of Odin and Frigga, goddess of love.

Baldur had a premonition of his own death; this greatly alarmed his mother for if he should die then all life on earth would end. In an attempt to prevent Baldur’s death, Frigga asked every element of nature to promise not to harm him. In her haste she forgot the lowly mistletoe, the evil God Loki knew of her mistake and so he made an arrow tip of mistletoe and gave it to the blind God of Winter, Hodar, who then accidentally shot and killed Baldur.  Instantly the sun ceased to shine the sky paled and all things on Earth and in the Heavens wept for the fallen Sun God. For three days each element and all of the Gods and Goddess tried to revive him, and he was finally restored to life.

It is said that the tears of joy that Frigga shed then turned into the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant, and in her joy she kissed everyone who passed under the tree on which it grew. It was then decreed that the mistletoe would never again cause harm and that anyone who walked under it should receive a kiss, a token of love.

The earliest document case of kissing under the mistletoe was back in the 16th century in England, it was a very popular custom at that time. The original custom in England was that the gentleman would pick a berry from the sprig of mistletoe before he could kiss the lady standing under it. Once all the berries had gone there could be no more kissing. In the 18th Century the exchanging of kisses between and man and woman was adopted as a promise to marry. At Christmas time a lady standing under a ball of mistletoe could not refuse to be kissed. It was believed that if the girl remained unkissed she could not expect to marry in the following year.

In the modern day although greenery is still widely used as a Christmas decoration, the practice of hanging mistletoe is rarely done. Even though almost everyone has heard of the custom of kissing under the mistletoe, it is a sweet and simple ancient tradition that many have forsaken. So this holiday season we here at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs would wish upon everyone all the peace, joy and friendship that mistletoe was long believed to help bring.

About the Author: Morgan McDaniel is a Ouray County native. After graduating high school, Morgan continued through college, and spent some time out of Colorado. Recently, she returned to Ouray, and can be found pursuing a number of activities, as well as the occasional cameo appearance at the Silver Eagle.

 
 

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