Meet Me Under The Mistletoe

For the past few years, I have had intentions of sending my family fresh mistletoe during the Christmas season. (It will happen!) Not the "packaged fresh" mistletoe found at the checkout stand, but mistletoe I gathered myself.
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I have known mistletoe grew nearby, but even in all my asking of friends where to find it, I have been at a loss. I would walk and drive near the locations I was told I would find it, but I had no idea what I was actually looking for.  A tree, a bush... what was mistletoe?
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This year, I decided to do a Google image search for mistletoe. As I scrolled through the photos, a light bulb went on - I discovered I had been looking at mistletoe at almost every turn.
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Here in Central California, there is mistletoe growing all over the place. I now know, that it is really easy to spot during the winter months, especially when the rest of the leaves have fallen from the trees. The picture below is one of the photos I found online... a striking image of a tree in winter, filled with mistletoe. As you can see, when you purchase those plastic mistletoe spheres, it's pretty close to true form. :)  Someone should climb this tree (below) and tie big red bows above each ball of mistletoe.
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Once I learned how to spot mistletoe I had to learn more! And when I learn something new I like to share. Sometimes over and over again, just ask my kids. They know all about mistletoe now. My parents, who visited recently from Utah, know all about mistletoe, my daughter's friends know about mistletoe (if they have been in the car with me recently). :)  I have to hold my tongue and simply point now, for fear of being shot down with eye rolls and deep sighs.
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WHAT IS MISTLETOE?
Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant. It grows on the stems of woody plants, from which they derive water, minerals, nutrients and small amounts of organic compounds carried in the sap. Mistletoe can may grow on ash, beech, birch, hickory, maple, oak, pecan, sycamore, walnut and willow.
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Birds spread mistletoe from tree to tree when they eat the pulp around the seeds, which stick to them. The seeds then germinate and the parasite grows through the bark into the tree's water-conducting tissues where the sinkers develop. While the seeds aren't harmful to birds, they are poisonous to humans and pets.
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Though a parasite, mistletoe does do some good. It offers food to a wide variety of creatures throughout the year, helps improve soil quality beneath infected trees, and often provides a safe hiding or nesting place. In addition, it offers up an invitation to all who stand beneath it... "Kiss!"
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SHARING A LITTLE LOVE
On Superbowl Sunday, I took my kids on a nice little hike - after church and before the big game. At the end of the hike we found a tree filled with mistletoe. We each took turns beneath it. :) Can I just tell you... I love my kids! :)
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WHY DO WE "KISS" BENEATH THE MISTLETOE?
The origin of the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is vague. However, the tradition may have stemmed from either the Viking association of the plant with Frigga (the goddess of love) or from the ancient belief that mistletoe was related to fertility.
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The correct mistletoe etiquette is for the man to remove one berry when he kisses a woman. When all the berries are gone, there's no more kissing permitted underneath that plant. :)
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One legend states that a couple who kisses underneath mistletoe will have good luck, but a couple neglecting to kiss will have bad luck. Specifically, it is believed that a couple kissing under the mistletoe ensure themselves of marriage and a long, happy life, while an unmarried woman not kissed under the mistletoe will remain single for another year.
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Maidens may place a sprig of the plant under their pillow at night in the same manner a child places his or her lost tooth in anticipation of a visit from the Tooth Fairy. Instead of exchanging teeth for money, however, the sprig of mistletoe allows women to dream of their Prince Charming.
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While mistletoe is widely viewed as a symbol of love and fertility, it's also representative of peace. Ancient tales tell of enemies who encounter each other underneath trees bearing mistletoe. The enemies lay down their arms, embrace, and agree to a truce until the next day. This act of goodwill is yet another possibility for why we kiss under mistletoe: abstaining from violence and exchanging greetings under the plant may have prompted the custom of kissing.
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FREE PRINTABLE
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"Meet Me Under the Mistletoe"
by Freshaire Designs (me) :)
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OPERATION: KISS ME
I think mistletoe should be a Valentine's Day tradition, not just Christmas. I am on a mission to make this happen! It just seems to be a perfect fit - with all the kissing. :)
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POSSIBLE FUNDRAISING OPPORTUNITIES
One of my daughters is earning half her tuition for EFY this summer. To help her reach her goal we packaged up: a sprig of mistletoe, instructions for use, and a heart shaped Dove chocolate into a cello bag and tied it up with a bow. She sold them for $1.
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If you live in an area where you can gather fresh mistletoe, this could be a fun and easy fundraiser for you during any of the following holidays:  Christmas (tradition), Valentine's Day (Kiss Me), St. Patrick's Day ("Kiss Me! I'm Irish"), or at Halloween (in the European Middle Ages mistletoe was hung over doors to ward off witches).

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For more information on everything mistletoe, visit: www.mistletoe.org.uk or Mistletoe Matters

1 comment:

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