WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – It’s the dawn of a new day on the Washington Waterfront, and at the North Carolina Estuarium, they’re getting ready to go out on the water.
“We’ve been doing river cruises since about 2000,” said Tom Stroud, director of the North Carolina Estuarium.
River cruises aren’t uncommon here, but during the month of December, they go out on a special mission: hunting mistletoe.
“Mistletoe is pretty common here,” added Stroud. “You usually notice it when the leaves are off the tree and the mistletoe is still green up in the branches. The mistletoe cruise is just kind of remembering the old fashioned way of gathering mistletoe. Years ago, they would actually shoot it out of the trees with a .22 (caliber) to gather mistletoe for the holidays. We aren’t quite that old school, but we cut it out, and people can take it home and use it for decorating in their homes.”
“Mistletoe grows all along the East Coast,” said Russ Chesson, program specialist at the North Carolina Estuarium. “The type that we find here is most like the kind where the tradition started in Norway and in Britain.”
Plenty of folklore surrounds mistletoe. One of the more popular this time of year, of course, is getting a kiss underneath the mistletoe. It’s said to be a sign of love and friendship.
“Each berry is one kiss,” said Chesson. “So, when you’re under the mistletoe, if you’re a guy, you’re hunting for the good ones. The guy gets a berry, offers it to the lady, and he gets a kiss. When you’re out of berries, you’re out of kisses.”
Mistletoe’s roots though are anything but love and romance.
“Mistle, which is dung, and toe, which is twig,” added Chesson. “So literally, the kissing plant means poop on a stick. I think if more folks knew that, it wouldn’t be quite as romantic.”
Even with the unfortunate tale, the chance to bag some up, and take it home is well worth it to most.
“We’ve had people come back year after year,” said Stroud. “It’s kind of a tradition for them. Sometimes it’s really cold though!”
Even more reason to go mistletoe cruising with your sweetheart.
The mistletoe cruises have ended for 2016, but the North Carolina Estuarium in Washington and the Roanoke Cashie River Center in Windsor plan to have mistletoe crusies again next December.