The Winter Solstice, which occurs December 21-22, marks the longest night of the year. Many of our religious traditions are rooted in this season when the light lasts for the shortest amount of time and is seemingly overwhelmed by darkness. Both Christian and Jewish traditions celebrate major holidays at this time of year, marking the return of light from darkness with the birth of Christ, and the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, known as the festival of lights.
In northern Europe this spark of light in the darkness is woven into the story of the goddess Frigga, also known as Mother Night. Frigga labored in the darkness to bring her son, Baldur, into the world on this night. Baldur was a fertility god who brought rain and sun to ensure the harvest. Unfortunately, Baldur was killed by a dart from the mistletoe plant, but Frigga's grief was so great that the plant took pity on her. Baldur is restored to life and the grateful Frigga, whose tears formed the plant's white berries, reversed the curse of the mistletoe and transformed it into a symbol of love, promising good things to all who kiss underneath it.