Mistletoe: Make an Herbal Holiday Kissing Ball

A holiday custom with Victorian charm.

| December/January 1996

  • Layers of fragrant herb sprigs inserted in a staggered, circular pattern give the kissing ball volume.
  • Rosemary, sage, lavender, anise hyssop, lemon geranium, oregano thyme and boxwood make this ­Victorian kissing ball an eye-catching touch for any room.

  An Herbal Holiday Kissing Ball  

Victorian families in En­gland and America decorated their homes with greenery during the Christmas holidays. Freshly harvested evergreen boughs, sprigs, and vines were transformed into wreaths, garlands, and swags, adding festive touches to doorways, windows, mantels, banisters, and chandeliers. Bringing greenery such as mistletoe, holly, and ivy into the home at this time of year may have been a legacy of the Druids, who used it to welcome wandering nature spirits seeking shelter from the cold and dark.

Mistletoe and other plants also made their way into Victorian “kissing balls” (also called “kissing boughs” or “kissing bells”). In the Victorian language of flowers, mistletoe signifies overcoming difficulties—and so perhaps explains the tradition of stealing kisses from anyone caught standing beneath it. This custom relates to the social license allowed during the holiday season, when gentlemen who managed to waltz their sweetheart under a kissing ball could publicly overcome the propriety of ladies of the day. Judging from the engravings published in magazines of that era, kissing under the mistletoe was a popular pastime.

The Victorians also took license with the plants and materials they included with the evergreens in their kissing balls. Glitter, ribbons, dried sheaves of grain, autumn leaves, bright berries, and everlasting flowers were some of the colorful materials that the popular magazine Vick’s Floral Guide (1879) recommended adding to give the kissing ball a festive look.

In my years of teaching classes on seasonal holiday decorations, I have ­created many kissing balls; in fact, it is my favorite Victorian custom. Traditionally, kissing balls started with an apple or potato base. I use apples and insert sprigs of herbs into them; not only are they handy and inexpensive, but the moisture in an apple keeps the herbs fresh longer. When the necessary herbs are in season, I clip them from my garden and decorate the ball with flowers, ribbon, and jingle bells.

For The Herb Companion, I created this special herbal kissing ball for a New Year’s decoration. In my area of the Midwest, nice-looking, fresh mistletoe is difficult to find, so I don’t include it, but if it grows in your area or you have a good source for fresh mistletoe, add it to the center of the kissing ball.



October 19-20, 2019
Topeka, Kansas

Join us in the heart of the Midwest to explore ways to save money and live efficiently. This two-day event includes hands-on workshops and a marketplace featuring the latest homesteading products.


Subscribe today and save 58%

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living !

Mother Earth LivingWelcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds

click me