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Yet its popularity grew, as shown in illustrations from Harpers Weekly and the Illustrated London News during the mids. This tradition instructs that a gentleman should only kiss a lady on the cheek and that one white berry should be plucked from the mistletoe for each kiss.

Why do we call it a 10-gallon hat?

However, LiveScience. There have even been deaths attributed to drinking too much tea made from mistletoe berries. So don't ingest them.

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There are, actually, a few mistletoe varieties. The European species is Viscum album while the one often used for Christmas decor in the United States is Phoradendron leucarpum. Phoradendron is the kind you might find at a local nursery during the holiday season. Keena Tanner, merchandise manager for Star Nursery in Southern Utah, says all the local locations do carry it around Christmas. While mistletoe is technically a parasite that lives on other trees, Star Nursery only sells cuttings from the main plant, not the plants themselves.

Why Do People Kiss Under Mistletoe?

As such, the cuttings are in a dying and drying process and there's no worry of it attaching to a living plant. But even this mistletoe is different from what we might see growing naturally on local trees, says Rick Heflebower, the horticulture agent for Utah State University's Washington County Extension Office. The type of mistletoe that grows in this region naturally is Arceuthobium, or dwarf mistletoe. Heflebower says it can be found on pinyon pines and ponderosa pines. It's also not as decorative as the type of mistletoe hung during the holidays, instead looking more like a deformed section of the tree, he says.

Dwarf mistletoe can make the tree branches look like a "witch's broom," with many short shoots instead of a single, larger one. It also lacks the white berries of its decorative cousin. Follow Brian at Facebook. Call him at What's the deal with mistletoe?

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Brian Passey bpassey thespectrum. Druids clad in white would sacrifice two white bulls and use the mistletoe to make an elixir, which was distributed to the townspeople to resolve infertility issues and act as a cure-all for poisoning. This is actually true.

The Druid’s Kiss

In their defense, the Druids were always sacrificing people or animals or whatever. Two people caught under the mischievous, hemiparasitic plant have to kiss each other.

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  • History traces the mistletoe back well before Christianity to the Norse god Baldur. Baldur was so well loved that his mother-goddess Frigg cast a spell to ensure her son wouldn't be harmed by anything.

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    Really -- she named each and every single thing in the world, but forgot to add one plant to her list: mistletoe. So this mischievous god Loki made a dart out of the plant, shot Baldur with it, and killed him.

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    Frigg swore the plant would never again be used as a weapon; and that she would instead kiss anyone who passed under it. Mistletoe's relationship to fertility cruised right through the Middle Ages and scored a coveted spot among Christmas celebrations. Some early customs dictated that men could steal kisses from any women standing beneath mistletoe. Other records indicate a mistletoe berry could be picked for each kiss until all berries were gone. And still other history suggests mistletoe was hung as a symbol of fertility with sticky mistletoe seeds reminiscent of Norse gods?

    Sticky seeds?

    Share your thoughts and debate the big issues

    Regardless of the semen-filled history, we follow this tradition and happily play tonsil tennis with our friends, coworkers, and unpaid interns. And if you have ANY question in your mind if you should consider it cheating and are debating kissing someone under the mistletoe, the quickest way to get your answer is to flip it. Would I be OK with it?

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    • Why aren't they smooching you up beneath the mistletoe and pouring you another hot toddy?