The History of Mistletoe and Why We Kiss Under It

Mistletoe is a plant that grows on a variety of trees like apple, willow and oak. The name mistletoe comes from ancient Anglo-Saxons. In Anglo-Saxon “mistel” means “dung” and “tan” means “twig,” which means dung on a twig. This is because the ancient Anglo-Saxons noticed the mistletoe would often grow where birds leave droppings, which is how the name came to be.

The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe started in ancient Greece, during the festival of Saturnalia and later in marriage ceremonies, because of the plant's association with fertility. During the Roman era, enemies at war would reconcile their differences under the mistletoe, which to them represented peace. Romans also decorated their houses and temples with mistletoe in midwinter to please their gods.


There is also a Nordic myth concerning mistletoe, and it goes like this: The plant was sacred to Frigga, the goddess of love, but Loki, commonly known as the god of mischief, shot Frigga's son with a spear or, in some telling’s, an arrow carved from mistletoe. Frigga revived her son under the mistletoe tree and decreed that anyone who stands under the mistletoe tree deserves not only protection from death, but also a kiss.


In Victorian England, kissing under the mistletoe was serious business. If a girl refused a kiss, she shouldn't expect any marriage proposals for at least the next year, and many people would snub their noses at her, remarking that she would most likely end up an old maid.


Today, we take a much more lighthearted approach to the tradition. Although many couples simply just kiss when caught standing under it, there is a proper etiquette dating back to ancient times about kissing under the mistletoe. Linda Allen writes in Decking the Halls: The Folklore and Traditions of Christmas Plants that the gentleman should pluck one white berry while kissing the lady on the cheek. One kiss is allowed for each berry.


It should be mentioned, however, that the plant contains toxic amines, and eating its berries can cause vomiting and stomach pain. In the past, mistletoe had been thought to be a cure for epilepsy and other ailments but was proved false. In fact, mistletoe is probably more harmful than helpful: deaths have even been reported from drinking too much tea made from its berries.

How to pot your amaryllis and paperwhites

Potting amaryllis bulb

Start by finding the right pot. Most important: the pot must have a drainage hole. Second, it needs to accommodate the bulb. Choose one that's an inch or two wider than the diameter of the bulb. Check the depth, too. Ideally, you have room for an inch or two of soil below the bulb once it's been planted. Keep in mind that your amaryllis will be a bit top-heavy when it blooms, so a heavier pot is better.

Use fresh potting soil and moisten it before planting the bulb. This makes it easier to work with. If the soil goes in dry, it's hard to get the bulb situated. Do not use regular garden soil; it will not drain properly and your bulb might rot.

Position the bulb so the top third will remain above the soil surface. Leave an inch or so between the soil surface and the rim of the pot. This will make it easier to water the bulb thoroughly. Be sure to pack the soil around the bulb, giving the plant a good foundation for when it's in flower.

Place the pot in a relatively cool, bright location. Direct sunlight is not essential. Water sparingly until you see about 2″ of new growth. In some cases, the flower stalk appears first; sometimes it's the strappy leaves. Either way is fine. Once the plant is in active growth, water regularly and turn the pot periodically to encourage the stalk to grow straight. Buds will appear and blooms will begin to open within five to eight weeks. To prolong the blooms, keep the pot away from heat and direct sunlight. Sometimes the long flower stems benefit from a little extra support. An amaryllis support stake does the job nicely.


Potting paperwhites

Paperwhite Narcissus will grow happily and bloom with nothing more than water and stones or pebbles.

Growing Paperwhites in water:

To "plant" your bulbs, begin by carefully placing a layer of stones or pebbles to a depth of about 2" in a small vase or about 4" in a larger vase.

Next place a layer of Paperwhite bulbs close to each other, roots facing down. Put a few stones or pebbles around and between the bulbs to anchor them in the vase. Leave the tops of the bulbs exposed.

Finally, add water until the level reaches just below the base of the bulbs, but no higher (if the bases of the bulbs sit in water, they will rot).

Growing Paperwhites in soil:

To pot the bulbs with potting mix, begin by placing the potting mix in a plastic tub. Slowly add water and stir until the mix is moist but not soggy. Add moistened mix to the accompanying container until it is about 3/4 full.

Set the bulbs, pointed end up, on top of the mix. Space the bulbs very closely; they should almost touch. Then add more mix, covering the bulbs up to their necks and leaving the tips exposed. Water thoroughly.

Rooting and care

Set your container or vase in a cool (50-60°F is ideal) place away from direct sunlight. Check the bulbs frequently and water thoroughly when the potting mix is dry 1" below the surface (but not more than once a week until the bulbs begin active growth), or when the water level is more than 1" below the stones or glass in your vase.

If your bulbs are in a bowl (a pot without a drainage hole), water with extra care: Bulbs sitting in soggy potting mix soon rot.

Once a week, tug gently on the bulbs to see if they have begun to product roots. When your tug meets with firm resistance (usually about 3 weeks after potting), move the container to a sunny window.

Keep a close eye on watering. Bulbs in active growth can dry out in just a day or two.

When Paperwhites are forced to bloom indoors, they have a tendency to topple when in flower. Hold them upright with the bulb supports or with bamboo stakes and twine (available at garden centers). If you use supports, set them in place when the bulb shoots are 8-10" tall by inserting the legs at regular intervals along the inside edge of the container. As the leaves and stems grow, a few will find their way outside the ring. Gently bend them and push them back inside.

After Paperwhites finish blooming, we recommend that you throw the bulbs out or toss them on the compost pile. They won't bloom again indoors.


Types of Christmas Trees

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1. Balsam Fir

The balsam fir is an evergreen tree best known for its conical shape and dense, dark-green leaves that are flat and needle-like. The leaves of the balsam fir also tend to have hints of shining silvery-white and are commonly used for Christmas wreaths and Christmas bouquets. This evergreen tree not only looks good, but smells good too. Giving off that spicy Christmas scent only makes it an even more popular Christmas tree choice. This particular fir varietal is small- to medium-sized and grows to heights of up to 66 feet tall.

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2. Fraser Fir

Known for its pleasant scent, the yellow-green branches of the fraser fir feature a conical shape with branches that angle slightly upward. The branches of the fraser fir are also known for being extra sturdy, making this Christmas tree a great option for heavy ornaments, Christmas garland and holiday decor. Its leaves are needle-like and spiral along the trunk of the tree, giving off a fragrant scent. The fraser fir typically grows anywhere up to 50 feet tall.

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3. Canaan Fir

Known for its similarities to the fraser fir and balsam fir, the canaan fir is referred to as the hybrid of the two. Canaan fir is a medium-growing evergreen tree that features fantastic needle retention, like the fraser fir. Leaves are flat and needle-like, with a nice green color. The canaan fir is native to the mountains of West Virginia and is a newcomer to the Christmas tree market, making this particular fir varietal few and far between.

4. Douglas Fir

A douglas fir will make a statement in your home. This fir tree displays a full pyramid shape with blue or dark green leaves that have one of the richest scents of all the Christmas trees. Leaves of this evergreen are flat, soft and tend to grow in bunches. Douglas firs grow from medium-sized to extremely large anywhere up to 330 feet tall. Fun fact, the douglas fir makes up nearly half of all Christmas trees grown in the United States.

5. Grand Fir

The name of this evergreen tree really says it all. The grand fir is a large tree native to the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. These giants can grow up to 230 feet tall. The grand fir features bicolored needles with yellow-green hues and a white stripe beneath the needle. This tree produces beautiful, thick foliage and gives off that wonderful spicy Christmas tree scent.

6. Noble Fir

Noble fir is yet another one of the more popular Christmas trees and can grow up to 230 feet tall. The dense branches are evenly spaced along the trunk of this evergreen tree. Growing happily in the Pacific Northwest, the Noble fir displays needle-like leaves that tend to curve upward, making them a sturdy option for all of your Christmas decorations.

7. Concolor Fir

The concolor fir is often referred to as the white fir. It’s known for its flattened, needle-like leaves that are pointed at the tip. When it’s young, the concolor fir features more blue-green colored leaves, but as it gets older the leaves turn into a duller green hue. The concolor fir can grow up to 195 feet tall.

8. White Pine

The white pine features needles that grown in fascicles or bundles. With bluish-green hues and pointed tips, the branches of this Christmas tree are flexible and give off little to no aroma. This pine tree is not recommended for heavy ornaments or large decorations because the branches are not as strong. Fun fact, the white pine is the largest pine in the United States. Mature trees can live up to 400 years and grow to heights of about 230 feet tall.


9. Scotch Pine

Also referred to as the scots pine, this pine tree is another common Christmas tree option. Dark green foliage and sturdy branches equip the scotch pine: perfect for plenty of Christmas lights and decorations. This pine tree can grow anywhere up to 115 feet tall. The needles range in color from blue-green to a darker green in the winter months and grow in fascicles or bunches of two. The scotch pine is also known for its long term needle retention, meaning less clean up for you when Christmas ends. Fun fact, it’s also the national tree of Scotland.

10. Virginia Pine

The Virginia pine can be easily identified due to its short and twisted needles that grow in pairs. This particular pine tree features short branches with dense foliage that respond well to trimming. The Virginia pine is known as a small to medium-sized tree that can grow anywhere up to about 70 feet tall.

11. Blue Spruce

The blue spruce, also known as the Colorado blue spruce, is loved for its waxy gray-blue needles that tend to curve upwards. Native to the Rocky Mountains of the United States, this spruce tree features dense foliage that grows in a conical shape anywhere up to 75 feet tall. The blue spruce is said to have “the perfect Christmas tree shape.” Fun fact, the blue spruce is the state tree of Colorado.

12. Norway Spruce

The Norway spruce is a fast-growing evergreen coniferous tree that can be found anywhere up to 180 feet tall. Its leaves are needle-like and feature a dark green hue with pointed tips. Although common in the United States, the Norway spruce is most notably a species of spruce that is native to Europe. Needle retention of the Norway spruce is poor, so it’s important to take proper care of your tree and water it correctly.

13. White Spruce

The white spruce is also commonly referred to as the Canadian spruce, the skunk spruce, the western white spruce and a handful of other names. This particular spruce species is a large tree that grows to heights of up to 130 feet tall. With needle-like leaves that are short and sturdy in a blue-green color, this spruce is a viable option for all of your lights and ornaments.

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14. Arizona Cypress

As the name implies, the Arizona cypress is native to the Southwestern United States. It is a medium-sized evergreen tree that can grow up to 60 feet tall. Leaves of this particular cypress are a bluish-gray color on branches that grow in a conical shape.

15. Leyland Cypress

The leyland cypress has feathery leaves that are greenish-gray in color and grow upward, giving the tree a pyramid-like shape. This particular cypress does not give off any aroma, so if you’re looking for a Christmas tree with a delightful scent, the leyland cypress might not be the one for you. On the plus side, the lack of fragrance can be great for those with allergies. This fast-growing tree will grow up to heights of 70 feet tall.

16. Red Cedar

Also commonly referred to as the Eastern red cedar, pencil cedar and aromatic cedar. Branches of the this particular cedar are dense and form a pyramid-like shape. The leaves jet upwards and are a dark, shiny green color. Although the eastern red cedars are slow-growing, they have been recorded at heights of over 40 feet tall. Fun fact, this cedar tree is most commonly used as a Christmas tree in Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Holiday plants to be careful with around your beloved pets.

With the holidays fast approaching most of us are beginning to make our homes more festive by adding fresh flowers and plants. Even if you don’t plan on purchasing them yourself you may be gifted one so it is very important that we educate ourselves about which ones might be potentially harmful to our pets.

Below you will find a list poisonous plants and flowers that are popular during the holiday season. We have also listed the signs and symptoms to watch out for, so you can be aware of a potentially dangerous situation.


·         Poinsettia Plant

·         Lilies and Daffodils

·         Holly and Mistletoe

·         Amaryllis

·         Christmas Cactus

·         Pine tree needles



Since many plants are irritants, especially for the gastrointestinal tract, most symptoms seen will be the result of irritation or inflammation, such as redness, swelling, or itchiness of the skin or mouth.

If the toxic principle directly affects a particular organ, the symptoms seen will be related to that organ. For example:

·         Difficulty breathing (if the airways are affected)

·         Drooling or difficulty swallowing (if the mouth, throat, or esophagus is affected)

·         Vomiting (if the stomach or intestines are affected)

·         Diarrhea (if the intestines or colon are affected)

·         Excessive drinking and urinating (if the kidneys are affected)

·         Fast, slow, or irregular heart beat (if the heart is affected)

Call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680

Call the number above or your vet, if you see any of the symptoms.

 “The more toxic the plant, the more careful you should be with displaying them in your home. While Poinsettias and Christmas trees are generally safe for pets, holly, mistletoe, amaryllis, daffodils, and lilies should be considered quite toxic.”

If you would like to read more into these plants and what causes the irritants or poisonous effects, the links below are our sources for this educational information.