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When I think about what makes Christmastime special—chestnuts roasting on an open fire, yuletide carols being sung by a choir, yada yada yada—I’m mainly thinking about the holiday’s annual rituals (folks, however, should probably refrain from “dressing up like Eskimos” anymore due to the term’s racist past). However, I’ve never understood the time-honored tradition of hanging up a fern only to coax another person to linger beneath it for a sloppy, eggnog-flavored kiss.
Blame the Celtic Druids for imbuing the parasitic plant with romantic significance. Since mistletoe was able to blossom even in the cold winter months, the Druids connected mistletoe to that favorite symbol of ancient civilizations: fertility.
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Norse mythology also places mistletoe in a romantic context, with the goddess of love Frigg declaring it to be a symbol of love and making a vow to kiss anyone who passed beneath it.
In 1820, Washington Irving wrote about holiday decorations including “the mistletoe, with its white berries, hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids,” thus enshrining Helixanthera schizocalyx in the pantheon of modern Christmas traditions. According to Irving, “[Y]oung men have the privilege of kissing the girls under [mistletoe], plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.” How charming.
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Beyond mistletoe’s icky history, it just reeks of desperation. In an age where we’re having enlightened conversations about consent, you shouldn’t be relying on a hanging plant to help you score. No Christmas office party has been improved by a co-worker staring at you, cheekily raising his eyebrows, and then turning his gaze back to you as if to say, “Hey, it’s Christmas…how ‘bout it?”
Even when mistletoe is used between two consenting adults, it’s not just corny—it’s lazy. Have some self-respect!
So I’m offering this simple phrase for kids from one to ninety-two: it’s time to cancel mistletoe, once and for all. Please, for the love of all things Kris Kringle, toss the mistletoe in the trash where it belongs this December. Literally nobody will miss it.
Spencer Dukoff is the Deputy Editor of Content Strategy at Men’s Health.
Source: Mens Health