About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why do people kiss under the Mistletoe and what is the plant's connection to birds?

Hanging mistletoe over a doorway during the holiday season is a tradition around the world. The Mistletoe plant does not grow in soil but on the tops of tree branches and absorbs its host’s tree sap as food through specialized roots. When most trees go dormant in the winter, mistletoe is an evergreen plant with dark green, leathery leaves and tiny white berries.

It's thought that the plant is named after bird droppings on a branch. The Anglo-Saxon word misteltan, "mistel" (dung) and "tan" (twig), make up the older version of mistletoe.

Lots of songbirds enjoy mistletoe berries and the berries like the birds right back. Birds help spread the plants' seeds through their droppings. The small, soft seeds of mistletoe berries lack a seed coat. They are protected from a bird’s digestive juices by a viscid layer containing chemicals that speed the seed through the digestive system. This same layer helps deposited seeds stick to limbs and twigs of a host plant

Mistletoe along with a lot of other evergreens such as holly, ivy and pine trees are all symbols of eternal life and renewal. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe may have stemmed from the Norse goddess of love and beauty. Goddess Frigg made Mistletoe promise that it would forever be devoted to acts of happiness and usefulness after Loki, the mischief maker, helped engineer her son's death with the plant.

The Druids also considered the mistletoe to be a sacred plant and believed it had miraculous properties which could cure illnesses, serve as an antidote against poisons, ensure fertility and protect against the ill effects of witchcraft. And when enemies met under the mistletoe in the forest, they had to lay down their arms and observe a truce until the next day. As a result the ancient custom of hanging a ball of mistletoe from the ceiling and exchanging kisses under it as a sign of friendship and goodwill.

Related Articles:
- How the Christmas Tree tradition started http://goo.gl/hpYcTZ
- Edible ornaments for the birds http://bit.ly/tXDnSB
- Decorate a Tree for Your Birds http://bit.ly/t3QtGV
- The Tradition of feeding the Birds at Christmas Time http://goo.gl/7ODaQ
- When did Reindeer Learn to Fly? http://bit.ly/veTLpT

- Why green, red, and white are Christmas colors http://goo.gl/Swgzv6

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