Kokina resembles mistletoe at first, but if you take a closer look, you will notice that it is actually two plants made into one. How? The red berries of one plant are hand-tied to the thorny green leaves of another, and voila! Kokina is born.
In Turkey, kokina is the Frankenstein plant that emerges during the holiday season, bridging Christmas into New Years, painstakingly – and painfully, if you consider the thorns – prepared by Romany people to decorate the homes of Istanbulites.
Kokina, sources say, means “red” in Greek, and the Greeks in Istanbul started the tradition of decorating with kokina during Christmas. It is no longer exclusive to Istanbulite Greeks, however, and you can see kokina decorating the houses of Turks and Greeks alike.