Kissing Bough

Kissing Bough

Kissing Ball, Kissing Bunch, Kissing Ring

During the nineteenth century a kissing bough hung from the doorway, ceiling, or chandelier of many English homes at Christmas time. Families fashioned this homemade decoration by winding Christmas greenery around a circular wire frame. Sometimes a spherical frame was formed by placing one hoop inside another. Householders often embellished this basic design with ribbons, apples, oranges, colored paper, candles, and other ornaments.

The most important element in the kissing bough was mistletoe. Mistletoe might cover the frame or, if only a small quantity was available, a bunch of mistletoe might hang from the center of the frame. By the time the kissing bough became popular in the late eighteenth century, the English had already adopted the custom of stealing kisses from those who passed by, or stood beneath, a sprig of mistletoe. Placed where guests and family members were certain to walk under it, the kissing bough provided an opportunity to exercise this custom. In the nineteenth century the English began to decorate their homes with Christmas trees. As the tree became the focal point of English Christmas decorations, the kissing bough declined in popularity.

Further Reading

Del Re, Gerard, and Patricia Del Re. The Christmas Almanack. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1979. Hadfield, Miles, and John Hadfield. The Twelve Days of Christmas. Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown and Company, 1961. Harrowven, Jean. Origin of Festivals and Feasts. London, England: Kaye and Ward, 1980. Hole, Christina. British Folk Customs. London, England: Hutchinson and Company, 1976. Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1996. Muir, Frank. Christmas Customs and Traditions. New York: Taplinger, 1977. Pimlott, J. A. R. The Englishman's Christmas. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1978.
Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year's Celebrations, 2nd ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2003
References in periodicals archive ?
From the Medieval Christmas in the courtyard to the Tudor Kissing Bough in the Portcullis and the Hop Garland in the Long Gallery, there's plenty to discover about how the festive season was celebrated in centuries gone by.
There will of course be a nod to Kenilworth's Elizabethan heyday with a Tudor kissing bough (complete with mistletoe), as well as traditional yuletide toys, treats and entertainments over our Christmas at the Castle weekend." Christmas at the Castle takes place on Saturday, December 13 and Sunday, December 14, 11am-4pm.
Auckland Castle's fir tree will be decorated with electric candle lights, but one Georgian tradition that will be repeated in time honoured fashion is that of the Kissing Bough. A ball of greenery with seasonal fruit hung from ribbons, it was the precursor to the bunch of mistletoe, under which no lady could refuse a kiss - as long as a berry was plucked off at the same time.
In the 1600s, an evergreen "kissing bough" was hung from the ceiling as a precursor to our modernday mistletoe.
CHRISTMAS KISSING BOUGH Dover Castle, Kent Tomorrow - December 31, 10am-4pm CLAIM your kiss from the magnificent kissing bough in the King's Hall of the medieval Great Tower.
Christmas was a time for decorating the home too, especially with the "kissing bough", a hoop tied with all kinds of evergreen.
Visitors will be welcomed to the museum by the old-fashioned kissing bough hanging in the hall.
Until the introduction of the Christmas tree in the Victorian era, the kissing bough was the primary piece of decorative greenery in the English Christmas.
A kissing bough would be suspended from a hook at the beginning of the Christmas season and young men were permitted to kiss any girl they managed to draw under the bough.
"Today, a sprig of mistletoe represents the long and enduring history of the kissing bough, which was one of the earliest Christmas decorations and especially popular in the Victorian era - we're now looking forward to seeing our own bough suspended from Belsay's magnificent pillars."
There will be an old-fashioned kissing bough hanging in the hall, complete with apples, candles and mistletoe, together with displays of unusual period festive food in the kitchen and dining room.
It started with the Kissing Bough which had mistletoe at its centre.