Oh by gosh by golly, it’s time for mistletoe and holly.
I heard Frank Sinatra sing “Mistletoe and Holly” on the radio the other day, and it conjured up a childhood Christmas memory:
Shooting down the mistletoe.
Mistletoe, as you know, supposedly is a license to kiss, at Christmas: Catch women under the mistletoe, and you can lip-smack them without permission.
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“Oh ho, the mistletoe, hung where you can see,” Burl Ives sings in “Holly Jolly Christmas,” a feature of my childhood “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” TV special. “Somebody waits for you. Kiss her once for me.”
We would advise against that, this Christmas.
Kiss a woman without consent, and you’re likely to get Tased. Or pepper sprayed. Or shot. Or fired. Or forced to resign, and to apologize if anyone was offended by your putting your mouth on her.
Here’s another holiday mistletoe safety tip: Don’t hang mistletoe over your crotch at an office party, and not just because it could lead to questions like, “Is that mistletoe on your groin, or are you just having an alien fungal infection?”
The cell-phone video your coworkers shoot and post online could go viral, and become evidence in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
I note this not because I’ve done it or seen it in person or in an episode of the sit-com “The Office,” which is where you’d think it would be, but because I heard it on the radio.
In a report on office-party etiquette, an employment lawyer said a company’s chief executive once hung mistletoe from his pants belt and kicked off the festivities by "dancing around and making suggestions: 'It's the holidays; can't you see the mistletoe?' "
Eventually crotch mistletoe is going to show up online, if it hasn’t already – if only because some guy reading it right here and now is eyeing the plastic mistletoe adorning the holiday buffet and telling his buddy to hold his punch.
But that is another Christmas story.
Lock and load
Back when I was a kid, we had a big oak tree beside the house, and it had gallon-sized clusters of mistletoe near the top.
Because my brother and I were told a sprig of mistletoe had some sort of Christmas magic, we decided a clump the size of a squirrel’s nest would have even more. And instead of climbing up there to get it and falling to our premature deaths, we would make it come down to us.
We had our father’s semi-automatic .22-caliber rifle, which had a heavy wooden stock and a scope precisely sighted. The scope had no crosshairs, just a tiny dot in its center, but if we held steady, the bullet hit the spot.
If we propped the gun on something, we might not bag a cluster of mistletoe in one shot, but we would in two or three.
I don’t know where those bullets came down, but they sure went up at a nice clip. And we got a fat batch of mistletoe to hang up. On the wall.
Hanging it from our belts would have been like wearing shrubbery.
The holiday tradition of shooting mistletoe faded, much like our other cherished childhood customs: starting impromptu bonfires, setting M-80s off in concrete culverts to make them sound like cannon fire, lighting bottle rockets and throwing them at each other, etc.
That big oak we grew up next to later was cut down, so it wouldn’t fall over and crush the house like a boot on a bug. And we quit shooting mistletoe long before that, because it has no holiday magic, and ammunition costs money.
You can’t waste bullets on some romantic myth – not when you get old enough to grab a warm can of beer from the back of a pickup, shake it up and shoot it instead.
Hey, we still could do that, couldn’t we? Hold my whiskey.
“Oh by gosh by jingle, it’s time for carols and Kris Kringle….”