The Art of the Victorian Kissing Ball
The tradition of the kissing ball goes back centuries. The halls and homes of England’s middle ages were decorated with mistletoe, just as we do today, but instead of a simple spring of mistletoe hanging from the doorframe, therein evolved the kissing ball.
Originally called “holy boughs,” these festive signs of the season were made from interlocking greens that often supported small figurines of the Baby Jesus, or the complete holy family. They were hung both usher in the Christmas season and to embrace family members and visitors in goodwill, as they passed through the home.
The Victorians transformed the kissing ball into what it is today, round, elaborately decorated with an apple or potato at it’s base, a true symbol of holiday love and romance. It now includes symbolistic herbs, such as lavender and rosemary to signify loyalty and devotion, and the interesting bit of thyme to promote courage, perhaps by a would-be lover to his object of affection. The infamous mistletoe is also sometimes added, not as a command to kiss, but as to symbolize both fortune and fertility.
While modern holiday decoration has seemed to miss all but the mistletoe, it is the elegant home, the home that wishes to encourage visions of the beauty of an old-fashioned Christmas, that will bring the element of the kissing ball, with all of its centuries of history.
The ideal placement of the main Christmas kissing ball is in the foyer, to welcome all to your home, but displays of several, singly on in groups, throughout the house, will provide a beautiful holiday scene, as well as offer chances to steal a good willed kiss.
Beautiful kissing balls, made with natural greenery, can often be purchased from a florist, a nursery, or local landscape professional. Of course, clever holiday decorators can craft their own. It is not unusually difficult to make a kissing ball.
You must start with a potato for the base. This tradition serves two purposes, to structurally support the greenery and to keep the kissing ball fresh with the offer of needed moisture. You may also substitute a floral-foam ball.
Soak your selected greenery in water overnight. Boxwood makes a pretty and fragrant green, but chose your seasonal favorite evergreen. The next day, insert short sprigs of greenery and herbs into the base until it forms an even, well-rounded ball. Decorate with ribbons and berries then attach a thin wire for hanging.
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Kissing Ball Image Source: Willamsburg Marketplace