The New York Times came out with this article today about why we kiss beneath the mistletoe. 'Tis the season, after all.
"It appears in Norse mythology: After Baldr, the son of the goddess Frigga, is killed with a mistletoe arrow, Frigga decrees that mistletoe will never again be used as a weapon and that she will place a kiss on anyone who passes under it."
Sophomore English classes have been the in the library the past two weeks researching recurring themes and characters throughout literature -- those that have appeared in and inspired new pieces of art, music, and literature. Students examined various characters, including several mythological ones: Cupid, Venus, Hercules, Thor, and others. We can add (holiday) traditions to our understanding of how modern culture has been influenced by mythology. Freshman English classes will be starting their research project after the holidays -- also based in mythology's influences in the modern world.
The (former) science teacher in me would be remiss to omit the fascinating botany of mistletoe -- an evergreen parasitic plant which grows on and infects its host tree. Mistletoe plants with berries (white or red) are female plants, while mistletoe plants with pollen (no berries) are male plants. Mistletoe plants take over a tree using a fascinating reproductive adaptation -- the seeds of the fruit are spread via animal excretion. That is, in the case of mistletoe, birds eat the berries, cannot digest the seeds, and pass them (with built-in fertilizer) to produce new plants. As the seed germinates, it penetrates the bark of the tree and taps into the tree's water and food supply (carried via straw-like tubes called xylem and phloem). The mistletoe plant redirects the food and water toward itself, cutting off the supply for the tree. Thus the mistletoe benefits, and the tree is harmed -- an excellent example of parasitism in plants.
Perry, E. J., and C. L. Elmore. "How to Manage Pests." Mistletoe Management Guidelines--UC IPM. UC Davis, Feb. 2006. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.
Schlossberg, Tatiana. "Why We Kiss Beneath the Mistletoe." The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 Dec. 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.