Holiday Smooching Traditions

Published in the London Free Press December 7th, 2009.

If an eligible young lady received a peck on the cheek under the kissing ball in Victorian England, marriage would soon follow.

The two kissing balls just inside the entrance of historic Eldon House in London have been witness to a lot of affection lately.

They are part of the holiday decor assembled by the Garden Club of London at Eldon House museum on Ridout Street.

“Victorians were not as prone to greet friends with a kiss as we are today,” says Cathy Luke, an historical interpreter for Eldon House. “This was a socially acceptable way to embrace during the holiday season.”

During the reign of Queen Victoria, balls or rings about eight or ten inches wide were made out of evergreens and white dried flowers and then hung with ribbon near the front door inside the house as a symbol of peace and love.

“It comes from the old idea of bringing greenery into the house during the dark days of winter,” Luke says.

They were the precursor in Canada to hanging mistletoe, under which couples traditionally smooch.

At Eldon House, visitors can hear about the history behind the kissing-ball tradition and try it themselves. The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Although it is not known for sure, Luke says the Harris family who lived in the home for generations before it was turned over to the city as a museum, probably observed the custom.

This is the 175th anniversary of the home’s construction.

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