Let the Kissing Begin
Here in middle Georgia the mistletoe clings to the naked limbs of large old oaks sucking its moisture dry, silhouetted innocently against the winter sky. High in the air, the bunches look like fluffy bridesmaid bouquets, or maybe a southern version of tumbleweed caught in the tallest branches.
Up close, in the hand, they are fleshy little leaves, oval shaped, a sickly-green color, on a crooked brittle stem shared with white toxic berries. Not as pretty as holly, not by a long shot. But then, mistletoe is a practically prehistoric parasite, so one shouldn’t expect much.
An unlikely plant for a holiday known for all things beautiful, mistletoe has been accused of poisoning cats, causing rashes and having other unhealthy attributes, although the Druids used mistletoe magic to cure all kinds of evils and ills. And today’s scientists are concluding that mistletoe toxins are dangerous to cancer cells. Wouldn’t that be a miracle? It’s also being tested for use in treatment of AIDS. But, until scientists abscond with all of it, the romantics among us will gather it for the purpose of kissing.
Gathering mistletoe is a story unto itself. Here in Georgia the plant is shot out of the tree. That’s right, shot, with a gun. Bang. Another bunch hits the dirt.
There it is, friends. An unlikely, ancient, poisonous, parasitic plant, harvested with a gun shot, tied up with a noose of red ribbon, brings on the kissing at Christmastime.
One really must wonder how some of our traditions originated.