Everyone knows about stealing a kiss under the mistletoe but not everyone knows about the kissing ball. This ornament harks back to Colonial days in America and it was a popular Christmas decoration during the Victorian era in England. It is the predecessor of the tradition of hanging mistletoe in a doorway and why many people stopped using this particular ornament is unclear. What is clear is that it is starting to come back into ‘style’ today as more and more people discover this unique Christmas decoration.
The kissing ball has always been made of evergreen boughs and mistletoe, unless you purchase a modern one that is made of some type of material that will not wilt or fade as it gets old. Bay and pine, rosemary, lavender and thyme were also used in the ball when they were handmade. During the Victorian era, the base of the ball was made from an apple or a potato. Each of the flowers or herbs that were used in the construction of the ball had a meaning. For example, mistletoe was used to help the people who kissed beneath it overcome difficulties throughout the year.
In addition to the base, herbs, and pine used in the decoration, they were also decorated with ribbons, other small ornaments, and sometimes even lighted candles. The ball was also made using a double hoop made of metal or grapevine for the base and this particular style had a sprig of mistletoe hanging from the center. In Canada, the kissing ball also included nuts, berries, pinecones, and sometimes even popcorn. It also replaced the traditional Christmas tree in Canada where many of the homes in the northern regions of the country were too small to accommodate a tree.
Just like the popular tradition of kissing under the mistletoe today, couples would kiss beneath a kissing ball in olden days. Young women who were caught under the decoration had to pay the price and give the gentleman who caught her there a kiss. Some other traditions stated that couples that kissed beneath the ball would stay together for the year and maybe even marry. In order to ensure that the power of the herbs and plants used in the ball lasted throughout the year, the kissing ball was traditionally burned on Twelfth Night.
If you are interested in making your own decoration for your home, there are numerous craft instructions available on the Internet for you use. These instructions range from making a small ball with the traditional apple or potato base to actually growing a ball in a round metal frame planter that includes ivy, holly, and other Christmastime plants that can be started growing early in the year so that it is ready to decorate for the holidays.