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Mistletoe: poisonous plant becomes Christmas tradition

Mistletoe: poisonous plant becomes Christmas tradition

GOOD TIDINGS: Mistletoe is a centuries-old Christmas tradition. Photo: Associated Press/Allen Breed

It’s sort of a strange custom — kissing or embracing someone while standing beneath the leaves of a parasitic plant.

But it dates back centuries.

The practice of greeting someone while stationed under a sprig of mistletoe is thought to date back to ancient Britain.

Two hundred years before Christ’s birth, the Druids celebrated the start of winter by gathering mistletoe and hanging the plant in their homes to ensure a good start to the year.

Visitors often found themselves embraced under the waxy, green leaves and the white berries.

Scandinavian lore has it that the god of light and spring was slain by mistletoe, and his mother declared that it never again be used for evil. Her tears are said to have formed the white mistletoe berries.

Horticulturists point out mistletoe is a parasite, depending on a host tree for the water and minerals it needs to survive.

And experts warn you should be especially careful when decorating with mistletoe, especially when children are present. That’s because the berries are quite poisonous and can result in rashes, nausea or vomiting when ingested.

And it goes without saying what an adverse reaction one might get if caught under the mistletoe with the wrong person.

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