Is Mistletoe Magic? Maybe…

Published 8:51 am Friday, December 13, 2019

It’s Friday

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Well, the stockings aren’t exactly hung by the chimney with care because there’s not enough room to line up 14 across the mantel (that’s stockings for six grandchildren, one great grandmother, one set of grandparents, and all the mothers and daddies in our crew).

But, everything else is ready for the big day, which will be Jan. 4  for us. We don’t mind being flexible, DW and I like having extra days for Christmas. The more the merrier we say!

One of my favorite holiday decorations that continues to make me merry was a gift from a sweet friend and Extension colleague from Senatobia. In Batesville it hung from the entry hall light fixture, where I watched and waited for the magic to happen as the boys brought their girlfriends… fiancées… wives home during the holidays.

This pretty ornament is a very nice and deceivingly real looking orb of mistletoe. Thankfully its plastic and silk leaves haven’t dried out, nor has it ever dropped those luminous pearly white berries on the floor. I wish I knew how many holiday hugs and kisses it has prompted over the years.

It’s now hanging in my Tennessee house waiting for more.

Mistletoe isn’t exactly what you’d call romantic. Phoradendron levrarpum is the North American variety of this hemiparasitic plant that grows on pine, oak, birch and apple trees. It sends roots into the branches or trunks of its host tree to take up nutrients and water, but is capable of carrying out its own photosynthesis independently of the host tree which makes it only partially parasitic.

The female mistletoe plant produces those tiny, luminous white berries in the winter, considered toxic (but usually not fatal) to people and pets, but are a welcome food source for birds. Heavy infestations of this evergreen plant can actually kill the host tree. Mistletoe is most noticeable during winter months while there are no leaves on the host trees.

Parasites don’t usually have such a nice reputation but this one is a little different. Centuries ago, ancient Celtic priests, the Druids, considered oak trees as holy and worthy to be revered.

Seeing the clumps of mistletoe growing on the otherwise bare branches during their winter celebrations they considered them as a sign of eternal fertility. The Celts would hang sprigs of the plant in doorways and because of the sacred significance of the mistletoe to these people, fighting beneath the greenery was prohibited.

And it seems from this pagan custom our tradition of kissing beneath the mistletoe gradually began to evolve from the ancient world.

The Romans also believed that mistletoe brought peace, love and understanding so they hung it over their doorways to protect their households. In Scandinavia it was considered a plant of peace and a time for enemies to declare a truce.

The history of mistletoe continues until the late 18th century when the English transformed mistletoe’s magical appeal into kissing balls.

It is said that men would let their marriage intentions be made known under the mistletoe and women… well, they couldn’t refuse a kiss or else they would be at risk of never marrying. Glad it’s just a sweet tradition today, but luckily there was a way out.

The kissing plant was traditionally burned on the twelfth night of Christmas when all kisses and unkept promises went up in flames, leaving no evidence of what just happened…or didn’t!

So, while thinking about this article, I asked DW if he had ever shot mistletoe out of oak trees.  My daddy would point it out to me and shoot it down while we’d be out Christmas tree hunting on the family farm.

DW said no he had not shot mistletoe out of trees because he didn’t want to waste his shotgun shells… nor kisses either I guess. Maybe he was saving them for me.

I say let the mistletoe tradition continue. Dangle it in the doorway or weave it into your holiday wreath. It’s pure magic! Just wait until I catch that DW under the mistletoe!

Recipe of the Week

German Chocolate Fudge

After mistletoe kisses, this is the sweetest!

1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels

3 (4-ounce) bars German sweet chocolate, broken into pieces

1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow cream

4 ½ cups sugar

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

13 ounces evaporated milk, undiluted

    Pinch of salt

2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts

Combine chocolate morsels, German sweet chocolate and marshmallow cream in large bowl; set aside. Combine sugar, butter, milk and salt in heavy skillet.  Bring mixture to a boil; boil 6 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour hot syrup over chocolate mixture; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add pecans and mix well. Spread fudge in buttered jellyroll pan; when cool, cut into squares. Makes about 5 pounds.