Nature and love are interconnected, a fact that is deeply reflected in cultural traditions that stretch back to ancient times. And these include elements of Christmas holidays. Lights, red decorations, upbeat music, sweet aromas and flavors, definitely create a romantic atmosphere. Many stories from Greek mythology start with a plant and a forbidden or unfulfilled love. Many plants have been connected with fertility, love and passion. One of these is the mistletoe, known worldwide, the symbolic Christmas decoration par excellence.
Mistletoe is actually more than one species of plants. You can say that each place has its unique ‘mistletoe’ for the Christmas celebration. It offers a nice green color to a winter of bare deciduous forests. The most famous is common mistletoe, or ‘gki; and has a significant role in legends and mythology of Europe. Celtic druids consider it to be a remedy for poisoning and after Christianity there was a religious aspect to the plant. The Christmas custom of kissing under a mistletoe started around 1800. But where did this come from?
The Greek mistletoe is called ‘houx’ or ‘arkoudopournaro’ and its scientific name is Ilex aquifolium, in Aquifoliaceae family. It is a small plant with spiky thick leaves and flowers blooming on the base of the leaves, making these beautiful small red fruits a natural Christmas ornament. It is native to all cold mountainous areas of Greece, except Cyclades islands, Crete, and the Peloponnese. It needs a cold weather to thrive and for its fruit to ripen in wintertime. According to Pythagoras, Greek mistletoe was used to bring luck and happiness to young couples. Its green color in the wintertime symbolized the new life which will come in Spring. Also, it was a sacred plant, helpful against witches and ghosts in ancient Greece. Traditionally it was used as an anti-fever agent and to treat burns. Nowadays, forest Agricultural Cooperatives in Greece collect this beautiful plant and sell it in the cities for decoration. People put them in jars or make wreaths for Christmas holidays. All mistletoes decorate our homes in a natural way and remind us of the symbolic Christmas spirit of love for each other.
* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.
Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist-MSc Botany-Biology and PhD Candidate in Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication.