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Sunday, December 20, 2009


It's Yuletide again, the Festival of the Winter Solstice!
Happy Yule Everyone!

May the lengthening days bring warmth and light to your lives.

There are many signs and symbols associated with the Pagan festivals through the year, none more mystical than mistletoe at Yule, the Winter Solstice.

Botanically, Mistletoe Phoradendron flavescens is a parasitic plant that grows on the branches or trunk of a tree and actually sends out roots that penetrate into the tree and take up nutrients.

The seeds are disseminated by birds, eponymously the Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus, that eat the berries. The juice of the berries is very sticky, and the birds have to wipe their bills clean against the tree, thus causing the berry seeds to lodge in a crevice in the bark of the tree.

Mistletoe typically grows in thick balls like this on trees in the south of England, and widely throughout Europe. I took this picture in the Donau Auen National Park near Vienna, Austria, in December 2009.
But wait, what is the bird at the top?

Zoom in a little and, although a very grey day with poor light,
we can see by its shape that it is a species of thrush...

Closer still, it is obviously a Mistle Thrush with its spotty breast! Individual birds like this will aggressively defend their patch of mistletoe throughout the winter (or, at least until the berries are eaten).

By tradition, mistletoe has long been associated with fertility and courtship. Mistletoe is brought into the home at Yuletide and when hung in a strategic high place, you are allowed to kiss your sweetheart when she steps beneath it. There is one proviso: there must be berries on the sprig of mistletoe, and one should be removed after each kiss. That is why bunches bearing the most berries are at a premium.

You can read a lot more about mistletoe here.

A Happy Yule to all my readers!


Blogger Badger said...

I spent my first year in Europe thinking these mysterious balls were birds nests!

9:36 am  
Blogger simon said...

Happy Yule to you too mate!

10:40 am  
Blogger Jenny Holden said...

Lovely post Jim. Very merry Yuletide greetings to you and yours. We're celebrating Yule tomorrow evening with a lovely fire outdoors and a big pan or mulled wine.

12:09 pm  
Blogger TCA said...

Merry solstice!


2:26 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Merry solstice for tomorrow!

5:07 pm  
Blogger simon said...

the most berries... yes reminds me of my fathers stroy about the jelly bean jar... (but perhaps that is more for around the camp fire..than here)

2:31 am  
Anonymous Ted M. Gossard said...

Interesting. I never knew all of that. :) Nor do I understand Yultide much, but have a happy one! And a blessed Christmas to all.

3:31 am  
Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

A happy Yule to you too, and all your feathered friends. I wonder where you will be travelling to next year.

10:40 pm  

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