Stocking Stuffers: Mistletoe
UNDATED - 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 would never again be used for evil. Her tears are said to have formed the white mistletoe berries.
Horticulturalists point out mistletoe is a parasite, depending on a host tree for the water and minerals it needs to survive.
Experts warn you should be especially careful when decorating with mistletoe, particularly when children are present. That's because the berries are quite poisonous and can result in rashes, nausea and vomiting when ingested.
And, it goes without saying what an adverse reaction one might experience if caught under the mistletoe with the wrong person.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)