It’s Thanksgiving Day in the US and you need to treat yourself to a terrific book as a reward for the hours spent preparing, serving, and cleaning up after the holiday feast. Look no further than this week’s guest, bringing just the thing to present to give yourself for another holiday in the books. It’s a pleasure to welcome Donna Hatch to share with us what she’s learned about smooching under the yuletide greenery, and introduce us to her newest novel, Christmas Secrets.
Is it just me, or does the image of sharing a long-awaited kiss underneath a mistletoe sprig create all kinds of delicious images? Mistletoe kissing is a time-honored tradition. Like many holiday customs, kissing under the mistletoe has pagan origins, and the custom has evolved over time. Most sources trace it back to ancient Scandinavia but it spread to England and much of Europe during the Middle Ages.
Probably because it was one of the few plants that stayed green during the winter, Celtic druids believed mistletoe contained magical properties of vitality. They seemed to have been oblivious to that fact that it is a parasitic plant that lives off trees. Apparently, they viewed mistletoe as the tree’s spirit revealing signs of life when the rest of the tree looked dead during winter. Also, oak mistletoe is rare compared to that found in fruit trees, so the druids believed mistletoe growing on oak trees was rare and more powerful. Since these druids thought mistletoe had life-giving powers, they conducted fertility and healing rituals underneath a bow of oak mistletoe for sick cattle and other animals.
People also looked to it for protection.
According to the Holiday Spot:
In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning.
Eventually, a practice in Scandinavia developed for hostile parties to gather underneath mistletoe to negotiate peace. Even quarreling husbands and wives made up under the mistletoe, and kissed to seal their renewed love and commitment to their marriage. Other herbology claims mistletoe is both an aphrodisiac and an abortive plant, which might be why some of the earliest customs involved more than an innocent kiss. But we won’t go into that.
Over time, the custom of kissing moved indoors. Sometimes the ball or sprig of mistletoe was decorated with ribbons, holly, apples, oranges and other fruits. Some people hung mistletoe below figures of the infant Christ, Mary, and Joseph.
In some parts of Europe and Great Britain, arriving guests kissed their host’s hand under a sprig of mistletoe hung in a doorway. Eventually a custom sprang up to have maidens wait under the mistletoe in the hopes that a young man would kiss her with the expectation that he would marry her within a year. If she didn’t get kissed, she had little expectation of marrying that year, sorta like a marriage fortune teller.
A young man who kissed a girl under the sprig or bough of mistletoe traditionally plucked off one of the white berries. When all the berries were plucked, the kissing, at least while under the mistletoe, also ceased.
I often see people mistake mistletoe with holly. Mistletoe has soft, pale green smooth leaves and white berries. Holly has green, glossy, ragged-edged leaves and red berries.
By the Regency Era, the custom of mistletoe kissing no longer came with strings attached. It became an excuse for behavior not normally condoned among unmarried ladies and gentleman. Maidservants stood underneath a decorated ball of mistletoe in a doorway to indicate her willingness to kiss in exchanged for a coin.
In my newest novel, Christmas Secrets, an innocent mistletoe kiss leads to a startling realization.
A stolen Christmas kiss leaves them bewildered and breathless.
A charming rogue-turned-vicar, Will wants to prove that he left his rakish days behind him, but an accidental kiss changes all his plans. His secret could bring them together…or divide them forever.
Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; finally earn her mother’s approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss…even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost.
Christmas Secrets is available now – get your copy right now!
Best-selling author, Donna Hatch, is a hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, the force that drove her to write and publish twenty historical romance titles, including the award-winning “Rogue Hearts Series.” She is a multi-award winner, a sought-after workshop presenter, and juggles multiple volunteer positions as well as her six (yes, that is 6) children. Also a music lover, she sings and plays the harp, and loves to ballroom dance. Donna and her family recently transplanted from her native Arizona to the Pacific Northwest where she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.
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And always remember to #ReadARegency!