Holiday kissers might need to dig a little deeper this year in their search for the perfect love talisman. As The New York Times reports, a Texas drought has devastated the mistletoe business, wiping out up to 70% of plants. Amid record low harvests, the few scraps that have made their way to market have been spindly and unattractive, the sort of sketchy sprig that nobody wants to be caught dead hanging around under--much less shell out $5 for.
Kissing under the mistletoe is one of the oldest Christmas traditions; the earliest written mention of the practice dates back to the 1500's, but historians believe that people may have been puckering up under the plant for at least a thousand more years. According to legend, St. Nicholas met his wife under a branch of the parasitic plant, but that little bit of lore was likely just an attempt to integrate older beliefs. Mistletoe weaves through old Norse religions, where its white berries represented the male essence. For that matter, the ancient Greeks and Druids also revered the plant, and Celtic farmers were convinced that it was a fertility cure.
But whether we kiss under the mistletoe because of St. Nick, because the Celts used it to get their cows pregnant, or because the Norse god Hoor killed the Norse god Baldr with a mistletoe sword, the simple fact is that, for some Christmas celebrants, the bright green leaves and waxy white berries symbolize the mischievous side of the season. Then again, as one florist rather grinchily noted, we no longer need a holiday justification for kissing in public. But for those who hold with tradition, a kiss under the mistletoe isn't just a hastily-sneaked snog: it's a bit of holiday celebration, albeit one that comes with an ever-growing price tag!
Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.