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Tue Dec 5, 2017, 09:55 AM

FSogol's Advent Calendar Day 5: History of the Kissing Ball

Went to the the Frontier Culture museum's open house right after Thanksgiving and they were busy putting up pre-colonial and colonial decorations.

In the late 1700s and 1800s, rural people in Europe would not have permission to cut trees on the landowner's property and would decorate an evergreen branch at Christmas time. More common and following them to the new world was the kissing ball.

They would wrap English ivy into a tight ball and wrap more and more until it was just larger than a softball. They would add mistletoe (a parasitic vine they would pull down from the trees and hang it over a doorway. Any male and female standing under the ball were required to kiss and then they would pull one leaf off of the ball.

Hanging a kissing ball in a doorway is much like placing a mistletoe above an entryway. The difference is that the kissing ball is made up of interlocking evergreen branches. Often times, kissing balls support small figurines of the holy family. Hanging a mistletoe above a doorway symbolizes fertility and good fortune.

At one point, the kissing ball almost disappeared into obscurity thanks to the Puritans and their beliefs. However, the Victorians brought back the tradition and gave it the name of holiday kissing ball. The Victorians started the tradition of adding other foliage and herbs to these decorative kissing balls. The most common herbs were rosemary and lavender. These herbs were not only used for their beauty but also for their symbols of devotion and loyalty, which are two of the true meanings of the kissing ball.

PS: If you ever find yourself in the Shenandoah Valley, I highly recommend visiting the Frontier Culture Museum. Synopsis:

To tell the story of early immigrants and their American descendants, the Museum has moved or reproduced examples of traditional rural buildings from England, Germany, Ireland, West Africa, and America.

The Museum engages the public at these exhibits with a combination of interpretive signage and living history demonstrations. The outdoor exhibits are located in two separate areas: the Old World and America.

The Old World exhibits show rural life and culture in four homelands of early migrants to the American colonies.

The American exhibits show the life these colonists and their descendants created in the colonial back-country, how this life changed over more than a century, and how life in the United States today is shaped by its frontier past.


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Reply FSogol's Advent Calendar Day 5: History of the Kissing Ball (Original post)
FSogol Dec 2017 OP
FakeNoose Dec 2017 #1
FSogol Dec 2017 #2
sl8 Dec 2017 #3

Response to FSogol (Original post)

Tue Dec 5, 2017, 11:31 AM

1. Interesting story

I never knew where the tradition of "kissing under the mistletoe" originated, or how it came to America.
Also I've seen balls of rolled up English Ivy but I hadn't realized they called it the "Kissing Ball."

Mistletoe is hard to find growing live in the US, so mostly the stores sell plastic replicas now.

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Response to FakeNoose (Reply #1)

Tue Dec 5, 2017, 11:38 AM

2. Actually, it isn't hard to find. The reason it is usually plastic is because the berries

are poisonous. Sellers worry kids will eat the berries.

Kissing under mistletoe goes back very far and has origins in Norse mythology.

The common explanation says that early Christians integrated mistletoe into their celebrations as the religion spread across third-century Europe. The rationale predates the early Christians and goes back to the Norse god Baldur second son of Odin, god of truth and light who was so beloved by the other gods that they sought to protect him from all the dangers of the world. His mother, the goddess Frigg, "took an oath from fire and water, iron and all metals, stones and earth, from trees, sicknesses and poisons, and from all four-footed beasts, birds and creeping things, that they would not hurt Baldur." And thus the beautiful god was deemed invincible. What does this have to do with mistletoe? Bear with us...

At a large gathering soon after, stones, arrows, and flame were all flung at Baldur to test his might. Nothing worked, and he walked away unscathed. Jealous of Baldur's new powers, the mischievous Loki set out to find the one thing on Earth that might be able to hurt him. He found that the goddess Frigg forgot to ask mistletoe tiny and forgotten not to harm her beloved son. In the end, a dart fashioned from the little plant was used to murder Baldur in front of all the other gods who loved him so dearly.

Frigg, of course, was devastated. Steve Whysall at the Vancouver Sun explains that the tears of Baldur's mother became the berries of the plant, and it was decreed that "mistletoe would never again be used as a weapon and that she would place a kiss on anyone who passed under it."

And thus we hang mistletoe underneath our doorways come the holidays so that we never overlook it again.


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Response to FSogol (Original post)

Tue Dec 5, 2017, 11:58 AM

3. Kissing Balls will never get you the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval n/t

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