The Annual Annoyance of Mistletoe

Leathery greenery with poisonous white berries. Yes, mistletoe makes a perfectly reasonable Christmas tradition

So far, I have no beef with stuff like eggnog and turkey and Christmas presents -- in fact, I love them when they're for me -- but this whole mistletoe thing has just got to stop. Seriously. I mean, who came up with the idea of kissing someone just because you happened to end up under a bit of toxic greenery together?

Yes, yes, I know... our illustrious ancestors. Back in the old pagan days, actually, and it's probably the last dying gasp of some old fertility rite. Which is not too terrible, considering. At least we don't sacrifice reindeer anymore, is all I'm saying.

And Yet.

Can you tell that I'm not real fond of hemi-parasitic plants of the order Santalales? (Yes, I read Wikipedia). And hey, as an aside, could that name possibly be a coincidence? Santa-lales? I hardly think so.

I can guess why it became a winter solstice tradition, before it was pressed into service for Christmas and an excuse for osculatory activity. What else is green in the snows of deep December, besides evergreens and mistletoe? And we needed the evergreens for Christmas trees and boughs of holly.

So obviously, it represents life in the midst of gray dreariness. The connections to the Resurrection and rebirth in general are pretty obvious, too.

Ho Ho Ho!

I do enjoy the old joke about it, though: if tennis players get tennis elbow and writers get writer's cramp, what do astronauts get? Missile-toe. Ha ha!

But maybe my antipathy is rooted in trauma. See, these poisonous white-berried delights like to live in oak trees, and they're quite obvious up there once the trees drop their leaves. So in the Christmassy family spirit, a young kid might, you know, try to retrieve a sprig for the old homestead.

A kid who couldn't climb a tree to save their life might, say, haul off and throw a stick up to knock the mistletoe off a branch, only to have the stick bounce off the branch and bonk them on the head hard enough to make them see stars. You know, hypothetically.

It's Aaalllways Something

And then there's the protocol issue. Who are you allowed to kiss? What if they don't want to? What if you don't want to? What if you're both the same gender? You can see the trouble this might cause at, say, one of those old-fashioned spiked-punch office Christmas parties.

But anyway: mistletoe. It's a funny joke, but a dangerous reality. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Still, I suppose there's kind of a silverish lining here. We could have decided to build the tradition around poison ivy instead of mistletoe... hey, don't you go getting any ideas, now!



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