Mistletoe and the Philematologist sounds like a holiday romance gone wrong, but during this festive season
there will be plenty of visiting friends, family and lots of kissing!
When you think of Mistletoe, you think of kissing. I'm Italian and we love to kiss as many people as we can, as often as we can. When people arrive, when the leave and even when they pass the vino (wink), but mistletoe brings thoughts of a romantic kiss or maybe a heart-pounding first kiss.
Philematology is the very unromantic science of the kiss. Philematologists are dedicated
to discovering the reason why humans kiss. Some believe it’s a learned behavior that evolved from our early female ancestors who chewed their food then passed it mouth-to-mouth to their young.
Not all humans kiss. Ten percent of the world’s population does not and a small percentage of humans find kissing gross and unsanitary. Obviously, they have never been properly kissed.
Others argue kissing is fundamental to our survival, therefore instinct. When we kiss another human being, we exchange pheromones and our primal use of scent comes to play. One study found women prefer men to smell of different proteins from her, which would provide their offspring with a strong immune system and thus survive better.
Really? Who knows?
Okay, okay, let's get back to mistletoe, a much more festive and pleasant topic. Except that, um,…mistletoe by nature is a parasitic plant that grows on the trunks of trees sucking the nutrients from them. The berries are poisonous to humans and it contains toxics that weaken and sometimes kill its host tree. It's also named after bird poop. The original word, misteltan, comes from a long lost Anglo-Saxon dialect after noticing the plant sprouted from bird dropping left on branches. Mistel =dung and twig=tan. Through the years misteltan became mistletoe, or dung twig.
But, let's not dwell on that...
We have to give a huge shout of thanks to the Celtic Druids for our love of mistletoe. They believed it could heal, bring good luck and bestow fertility on people and their animals. They considered the mistletoe that grew on Oak trees to be sacred. It was gathered on the winter and summer solstice with a golden sickle then hung it over doorways as a sign of peace and goodwill.
Centuries later, it became an old English custom to pick a berry off the mistletoe every time a kiss was given. When the berries were gone, the kissing stopped. I’m sure that was motivation to find the biggest bundle of mistletoe with the most berries to bring to the Christmas party.
May your holiday season be filled with joy, happiness, good times with family and friends and many kisses under the mistletoe.