The holiday season is a wonderful example of saving the best for last. This is because even though there are other holidays throughout the year, it is the ones at the end of the year that celebrate the bountiful harvests, the spirit of giving, and the renewal of life. For me the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is a time of reflection. I look back on where I was when the year began so I can determine which areas of my life I am happiest with and which areas still need more work. Not so much to make some sort of grand New Years resolution I may or may not keep, as to just make a game plan that should afford me a better chance of improving in the areas I'm less than pleased with. No matter whether they are leftovers from the year or years before, or new elements that have come into play recently. Entering the new year is never a completely clean slate for me, I almost always set my goals high enough that I can never reach them all in a year. It keeps me motivated, keeps me pushing. But this week is when I can wipe away those completed goals, and any that have ceased to matter, and write in the news ones that I want to work this year.
We all find ourselves facing struggles now and then. Some years are much harder on us than others, that's just the way of things. The bad years we experience are the vehicles through which we can recognize and appreciate the good ones. In the years when the going is especially tough I try to remind myself of some of the symbology behind the sprigs of mistletoe hanging here and there during the winter holidays. The goal is to remember that even in the barest of times good things can flourish bloom and bear fruit. And that is a really encouraging thought to remember.
For the ancient Celts mistletoe was a sacred. It was seen as a plant of great power because it could flower in the middle of the frozen winter. Because it would be thriving at a time when all the Oaks Birches and Maples that it favors had already lost their leaves and gone dormant for the season. Thus they believed the plant to be a divine guardian of the trees' spirits, so they held it in high esteem as a symbol of strength, protection, and vivacity. Among the many, and varying, accounts of how the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe came to be are some which say it was believed that expressing love beneath the mistletoe means the mistletoe becomes a guardian for the spirit of that love, and will protect it through any troubled seasons that may come in the future.
It is this characteristic of the plants growth that makes the Mistletoe easy to spot. Just look for the patches of vibrant green glowing amid the tangle of lifeless gray of deciduous trees branches in the winter. The oldest and largest bunches will usually be found growing very high up in the tallest trees where it can get more sun. But sometimes, in more open areas, it can be found growing within or almost within our reach, and all we need to do is exercise a little creativity to harvest it.
So wherever you are and whatever your disposition this winter, whether your with someone or not, try to remember some of the symbology behind the tradition of kissing 'neath the mistletoe. If you're blessed enough to be with the one you love, then kiss them like there won't be a tomorrow and leave them with no doubts of what they mean to you. If you're in one of those tough years, when things are feeling less than hopeful, then try to remember that even in the coldest seasons of our lives, seeds that were quietly planted months before can suddenly become very pleasant surprises. Surprises that can grow and flourish in what we expected to be the very bleakest days of all.
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Brian Griffin is an author, photographer, wilderness and survival skills teacher, knife enthusiast, outdoor gear researcher and product development consultant. He has a decades-long history of using and developing outdoor related tools and gear.