Days Gone By - stories from the past

Shooting Mistletoe – a Christmas family tradition in McCalla, Alabama

Shooting Mistletoe

by

Shannon Hollon

For many Christmas Eve’s the Uncles, Aunts and Cousins would gather from miles around at my grandparents house(Big Mama and Big Daddy Bearden’s) in McCalla Ala. While the women folk were preparing the supper feast the men and boys(sometimes girls) dressed in their camouflage and plaid with their best squirrel guns trekked off into the oak bottoms of Roupes Valley near the Great Southern Rail line to prove their marksmanship by shooting the largest cluster of mistletoe out of the tallest oak tree.


squirrel gun

Competition lasted till dusk

Many times the shooting competition would last till dusk or till we heard Big Mama ring the old black iron bell and in her shrill voice holler…”y’all come on…time to eat”. The shooting champion bringing back his prized cluster of mistletoe to show off and have the bragging rights for the next year.

mistletoe in top of tree

Started many years ago

Once back at the grandparents house all the husbands and boyfriends sneak sprigs over their wives and girlfriends heads where they are required a kiss among watchful eyes of giggling kids. The remainder of the mistletoe is use for decoration. According to my Granddad (Big Daddy) who will be 98 years old this year, this was a Bearden family tradition started many years ago.

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About Shannon Hollon

Shannon Hollon lives in McCalla Alabama graduated from McAdory High School and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Served 9 years in the US Navy Seabees with one tour in Afghanistan.Currently employed with US Steel and serving on the board of directors for the West Jefferson County Historical Society. http://wjchs.com/

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63 comments

  1. Paul Thompson

    Did this in Butler County while deer hunting. Gave to friends and relatives. Sprigs were selling for $5-$6 each.

  2. Kim Grissom

    We did this in our backyard when we lived in a rural area of Lauderdale County.

  3. Lynda Bradshaw Pate

    My Dad did would shoot mistletoe out of tree with his 22 rifle.

  4. Ed Pitts

    When I was a boy (about 70 years ago) I made a few dollars shooting it out of trees. And Holly twigs with Berry’s were popular.

    1. Gina Pitts Kato

      Do you have any family from the Oneonta area?

    2. Ed Pitts

      Not sure, I grew up partly in Altoona and some of my sisters are still but they wouldn’t be Pitts.

    3. Ed Pitts

      I see you are from Midfield. I had some Pitts relatives around Lipscomb.

  5. Myra Tatano

    I remember my widowed grandmother doing this in the sixties.

  6. Tricia Kendrick

    My sister and I tried to climb a tree in my Grandparents front yard, but we just could not reach it. Finally had to get a cousin to shoot it down!

  7. Ed Stevens

    I used my 22 rifle when growing up. Good times.

  8. We did this in rural Covington Co. Al.in the 1940’s.
    My grandmother tacked it over the front door at the end of a long hallway. Lots of kissing, fond memory.

  9. Paula Wilks

    Tim Lukings didn’t know if you knew about one of south’ oldest traditions

    1. Tim Lukings

      I did not. That’s very cool and sounds like a lot of fun.

  10. Dell Hilyer Corley

    my husband also shoots it out with a 22.

  11. Arlee McCoy

    My husband did this! He also insisted on cutting down the best cedar tree on the place. Sunday afternoon, riding around looking for the perfect cedar tree and a tree with mistletoe in it…traditional.

    1. Tom Lamb

      We too, cut our own cedar tree from the woods. And shot mistletoe.

  12. Bill Eslick

    Done it all my life!

  13. Glenn Akridge…3 years ago my daughter was madly in love with her fiancé…now husband. She had instructed my dad to get some mistletoe so she could kiss her soon to be husband. Well Daddy and I procrastinated until the last minute and it was raining so snipped off a few gallberry leaves and hung then in the kissing ball…worked just fine! We told her later and she still gives us grief! LOL

  14. Glenda Birchfield Pitts

    A family tradition for the Pitts family in Chambers County also. My husband and son always shot mistletoe out of the trees, and we would hang it over the doorways.

    1. Arlee McCoy

      Yes, we are originally from Lee County, AL.

    2. Gina Pitts Kato

      My family is Pitts and we also did this. Blount county though. My Daddy would shoot some down for me.

  15. Janet Castleberry Strickland

    I have seen my brother, Mark Castleberry, shoot it out of the tree by our house in Ferry Pass.

  16. Rejetta Balentine

    The boys always took care of this “chore”.

  17. Renee Simmons Raney

    Tradition for Walker family in Choccolocco, too.

  18. Michael Bare

    My wife was the sharpshooter in her family, so the mistletoe gathering fell to her… Much to the chagrin of a garden-raiding groundhog in later years…

  19. Betty Maze Patterson

    I used to love being chased all day by some boy with mistletoe, NOT!

    1. Jim Epperson

      I think I will look for some, would love to get in a good race!

  20. Lynda Bradshaw Pate

    My grandson does this for me now. He’s carrying on the family tradition.

  21. Joyce N Billy Lambert

    I’ve shot mistletoe out of trees. A Southern thing I guess.

  22. Frog Price

    We did this in the boy scouts in the early 70’s at Pineview Beach in Bessemer.

  23. Tom Lamb

    My father did this every year.

  24. I still shoot mistletoe out for kisses and decore

  25. Beamon Bryson

    I grew up in Blount County, Alabama doing this. I would also scout out the best shaped cedar tree while hunting, then come back for it just before Christmas. The tree only stayed up for a few days…from a couple days before until a couple days after Christmas.

    1. Gina Pitts Kato

      My parents were from Blount Co. Best place for mistletoe shooting

  26. Georgia Brown McKay

    Growing up in rural Al.(LA) or lower Al we used lots of natural holly berries and mistletoe ,bay leaves, vines and other greenery to decorate for Christmas ! We would get our brothers use a rifle to shoot down mistletoe from the tall trees because it seemed the bunches with the most berries grew so high ! The walk in the deep woods to collect the special Christmas tree and all the greenery was so much fun and so was the final decoration for the holidays ! The wild holly trees were so full of red berries ! Sometimes we spray painted pine cones and big bay (like magnolia ) all the bright colors !Sometimes we would ask our brothers to be on the look-out for the “perfect” Christmas tree while hunting in the woods !

  27. Vicki Blackstock

    We did this in Covington GA back in the 60’s/70’s. My mom and dad would take all six of us traipsing through the woods looking for mistletoe. Some of my best Christmas memories.

  28. Jimmie Reno

    Done that for many years growing up.

  29. Cyndy Burt Garrett

    Rachel Garrett Cobb I was telling Sammi about this Saturday.

  30. Celeste Weaver

    I need some mistletoe Taylor Lentini

  31. Karen Holland

    My husband used to shoot the tops out of cedar trees and bring them home for our Christmas tree. They were beautiful! This was in Greenville Alabama back in the 70’s and 80’s!

  32. George Washington wrote of a large bunch of mistletoe at the top of a tree visible from the window at his desk at Mount Vernon. It exists to this day.

  33. Tony Locke

    We loved shooting the mistletoe and the kisses that followed.

  34. Ann Murray

    We did this on SW Mississippi too.

  35. Dottie Linn

    Unfortunately I am a “city” girl and never experienced this fun. I never even went out to cut down my own tree with the kids at a tree farm. It was a family expedition though to go pick the perfect tree.

  36. Deb Mason

    We do not have as much as usual here this year

  37. Jeff Pollard

    How else can you get it down, cut the tree?

  38. Annette Mathews Gunter

    a Tradition in many parts of Alabama. I was looking at some mistletoe in a tree the other day and wondered if anyone did that any more.

  39. Marty Crews

    Thomas Crews family tradition.

  40. My daddy always shot mistletoe out of tall trees for Christmas decorations (Mobile County, AL). This was in the ’40’s and ’50’s.

  41. As a young boy growing up in Whistler, AL, (North Mobile), I remember using the 22 my Great Uncle Henry had given me to shoot down the mistletoe. I remember a box of 50, 22 LR shells cost 50 cents back in the late 50’s.

  42. Brenda Adkins Wright

    I believe Mark Wright has done this a few times! <3

  43. Lynn Eckberg

    Back in my teens I would climb trees to get tons so I could make wreaths for Christmas.

  44. Gail Snowden Russell

    My Dad always shot some mistletoe for our house and my Grandmother’s house. Everyone got kisses under the mistletoe!

  45. Beamon Bryson

    That’s how I always got mistletoe in Blount County, AL back in 50’s.

  46. Roger Attaway

    My Uncle James(Jimmy)Caddell use to take us up to the old family farm in Empire,Al. In Walker County and would make a contest for us boy’s useing a .22 rifle to shoot it down. Good memory.

  47. I guess we cheated…used an old over and under 410…still do!

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