I should think that just about everyone knows the Christmas custom regarding mistletoe, that it’s hung in doorways or on other fittings and kisses are exchanged by anyone passing beneath. I should think quite a lot of people, particularly older people know the legend of Baldr, the son of Odin who was accidentally killed by his blind brother Höd who was tricked by malicious Loki to throw a dart or arrow or shaft of mistletoe at him.
Mistletoe is an evergreen plant which is parasitic because it grows on other trees – you can see round balls of it hanging on leafless trees in winter. It has pale green, leathery leaves which are in pairs, and it was fleshy white berries which are poisonous. There are all sorts of myths and legends attached to it, such as the one of the death of Baldr, but I guess these days its mostly thought of as a Christmas decoration along with holly, another evergreen, but with contrasting red berries.
One custom which I always thought was associated with mistletoes, was that a piece of it should be ‘accidentally’ left hanging up in a discrete position, and to remain there all year, for luck and for love within the house. There was a social media post from the Fermanagh County Museum which is based in Enniskillen Castle, asking about taking down Christmas decorations (or trimmings, as they are sometimes called) and whether people do it on the 5th or 6th of January, or any other date.I mentioned the forgetting of the mistletoe, wondering whether it was just something our family did or whether it was a widespread tradition. Someone replied: I was told it brought good luck to keep a sprig of mistletoe by the door. She also comes from Cambridge, like I do, so maybe it was just a regional thing. Anyway, I think I may have forgotten a bunch of mistletoe, so I hope our home is happy and full of love for another year!