Wednesday, December 19, 2012


This is what mistletoe actually looks like. Accept no substitutes.

           So, mistletoe. Generator of thousands of holiday groaners about undesirable suitors chasing their reluctant would-be loves with a sprig of same, for as we all know, anyone standing under the mistletoe must be kissed. This stems from its association with fertility and its use as an aphrodisiac. You might want to think twice before standing under it. Or not.

          Mistletoe does have other uses, though. The mistletoe plant that parasitizes oaks is considered a powerful remedy against all evil. You must gather it at the new moon without the use of iron, and never allow it to touch the ground. My Perpetual Almanack of Folklore notes that mistletoe growing in apple and hawthorn trees is also especially worth having. I suppose the same restrictions on gathering apply as for oak-mistletoe.

          The Almanack also instructs that mistletoe should on no account be brought into the house until Christmas Eve.

          The Almanack is silent on this matter, but I recommend avoiding the variety of mistletoe most commonly seen here in the U.S.: the smashed blue-green sprig with plastic berries in the plastic packet. If you're looking for the real power of mistletoe, you'll not find it done up in plastic. It's not even the right color: real mistletoe is yellow-green.
          When we lived in France, I used to buy it at the market in a ball about the size of the one pictured above. It was very pretty decked out with ribbons and suspended above the dinner table.

          One of my favorite sights all winter long in France was bare trees sporting clumps of mistletoe, like the ones pictured below:

It adds a certain je ne sais quoi, don't you think?

          It occurs to me that we have oaks in our yard. I wonder if I can find some mistletoe seeds and start my own Christmas supply.


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