Mistletoe is a traditional winter decoration that adds a touch of greenery to your home during an otherwise colorless time of year — think gray skies, leafless trees and white blankets of snow. Mistletoe also has romantic lore attached to it, and there are few things more exciting than being caught by surprise under a sprig and receiving a kiss.
So what could be better than hanging a little holiday cheer in your bedroom? Maybe not much if you're a hopeless romantic, but you should proceed with caution. Here's what you need to know about decorating with mistletoe this holiday season.
What exactly is mistletoe?
Mistletoe is an evergreen plant with broad, medium-green leaves that are usually oval in shape. Throughout winter and into early spring, the plant is covered with white berries, making it an attractive focal point in the garden at a time when not much else is going on in nature. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant, though, meaning that it most often grows by clinging to established trees and sucking water and nutrients from their branches. Mistletoe in small quantities won't usually hurt the host, but it can kill a tree eventually if left unchecked. It's up to you whether you think a parasite should be invited into your home!
Why all the kissing?
The tradition of locking lips under the mistletoe predates Christmas celebrations. Instead, it's a throwback to Celtic and Norse traditions, whose mythology tells the story the goddess Frigga. Her son Baldric was killed by being stabbed through the heart with mistletoe, but Frigga's tears of mourning turned into the white berries. From then on, the goddess promised a kiss in memory of her son to anyone passing by mistletoe. The kissing tradition stuck in Northern Europe, and it was incorporated into holidays celebrations as the region was Christianized.
The Drawbacks of Mistletoe
Though pretty, mistletoe is poisonous. All parts of the plant — especially the leaves — contain phoratoxin, which can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms, including sleepiness, vision problems, gastrointestinal distress, weakness and even seizures. Mistletoe is also toxic to pets and cause many of the same issues in dogs and cats as it does in humans — but it can also prove fatal to small animals.
Mistletoe in the Bedroom
So at the end of the day, should you hang mistletoe in your bedroom? It could be a very romantic gesture to show your partner that you expect some serious kissing to occur in your bedroom. And the pretty sprigs will last as a holiday decoration for a good two to three weeks. But you may want to pass on this decoration if you have small children or pets in your home, unless you can guarantee that your bedroom is off limits to them — or that the mistletoe would be hung so far out of reach that you're sure your little buddies can't get to it.
If you're determined to have a little mistletoe in your midst this winter, your best bet may be to opt for artificial greenery instead. Most craft or floral stores have silk and plastic versions available during the holidays, and this could be just the thing you need to celebrate with all of the style and none of the worry that comes with the real thing.