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Mistletoe and pickle ornaments

on Wednesday, 09 December 2015. Posted in Columns, Opinions

As the leaves are rapidly dropping from trees, it is easy to spot clumps of mistletoe growing near the top of trees and shrubs. So, I have begun my annual search, just because I like looking for it. Mistletoe seems to be found most often in the tops of trees so it usually requires a hunter to “shoot it down” to collect some for holiday decorations. I suppose the reason is grows up high is because birds spread it through their droppings.

However, I know a few places around town where it grows in small fruit trees which makes it easy pickings. Mistletoe is actually a parasite – the plant attaches itself to a host tree and grows out of a branch. Although poisonous to humans, the plant’s berries provides a source of food for many animals. Birds rely on the plant and butterflies lay eggs on it and use the nectar. Bees also collect pollen from mistletoe.

During the Medieval period, people believed mistletoe possessed mystical powers which could bring good luck to a family during December and ward off evil spirits and the devil. It was often used in ceremonies and then burnt once Christmas was over. When the first Christians came to Western Europe, some tried to ban the use of mistletoe as a decoration in churches, but many continued to use it.

York Minster Church in the UK used to hold a special Mistletoe Service in the winter, where wrong doers in the city of York could come and be pardoned. Mistletoe was a symbol of love and friendship in Norse mythology. The custom of kissing under mistletoe comes from England. The original custom was that a berry was picked from the sprig of mistletoe before the person could be kissed and when all the berries had gone, there could be no more kissing.

Another interesting tradition which was claimed to be old is the Christmas Pickle ornament. Actually the Christmas Pickle is a modern custom. In the 1880s Woolworth stores started selling glass ornaments imported from Germany. Some were shaped liked fruit and vegetables. Around this time, the Christmas Pickle was said to be an old German tradition and that it was the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree and the first child to find it got and extra present.

That claim turned out to be a myth because no one in Germany knew about this tradition. It is more likely that a salesman invented the legend to sell his stock of Christmas Pickle ornaments. Regardless of the origins, some families have adopted the tradition of hanging the pickle ornament on their tree, with the first person or child to find it getting a present, Source: whychristmas?.com

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