Christmas time Mistletoe and wine?*

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Being a regular traveller on the Deutsche Bahn (German National Railways) has made me familiar with the landscape in Northern Germany particularly Brandenburg and Sachsen-Anhalt. This is a flat and in places marshy land, with scattered trees and copses that in the winter reveals large nests of mistletoe. Although the evergreen globules are parasitic, it is difficult not to see them as a decorative touch to an otherwise bare winter landscape.

Across the English Channel, I’ve rarely come across mistletoe in its natural habitat. Instead, Christmas sees clusters of mistletoe hang from ceilings or door arches in churches, houses, pubs and universities. This ancient tradition dating back to the Druid times, was meant to bring good luck and to ward off evil spirits. Nowadays the English tend to use it to hide their inhibitions and kiss each other underneath it, whilst removing one of the berries, a tradition handed down by Norse mythology.

And not unusally, if you go far enough back the Germanic and English roots of the word Mistletoe are intertwined (pardon the pun). Mistel derives from Old High or Middle High German probably meaning dung, and toe from tån meaning stick in Old English. Which makes sense if you taste the berry and look at the plant and means it’s best advised to leave it hanging in the tree or from the door frame at Christmas time and not to sample it with the wine.

*Mistletoe and wine is a No. 1 hit Christmas song made famous by Sir Cliff Richard

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