Plastic Mistletoe – why is it so popular?

If you’ve followed the various mistletoe blogs over the last few years you’ll know that I really really hate plastic mistletoe.

At this year’s Mistletoe Ball I gave a short speech on the perils of plastic – if you don’t keep up the tradition of using the real stuff we risk celebrating/kissing under plastic stuff – and all the tat that comes with it.  Like the Musical Mistletoe – a crowd-pleasing bunch of plastic mistletoe with a motion detector, that plays tinny Christmas tunes when you approach it.  Be grateful when the battery runs down.

Or Mistletoe-branded Condoms, complete with tiny sprig of plastic mistletoe – "because you nver know what that kiss may lead to…"

Now you might think all of this stuff was limited to the cheaper end of the market – but no, it gets everywhere.  On TV you regularly see plastic mistletoe being used – even on shows where they are promoting the real thing – last week’s mistletoe feature on ITV ‘This Morning’ had plastic in shot, and on the accompanying website, despite it being expressly about the real thing.  And I had to tell Ainsley off for having plastic mistletoe on set when I promoted real mistletoe on ‘Ready Steady Cook’.

Ah, but that’s the media, they’re allowed to be a bit tacky aren’t they.  So what about the National Trust then, those guardians of Britain’s traditions?  Surely they wouldn’t have plastic mistletoe? 

855596s Yes they do – as the main feature of one of their Christmas Cards for 2007 – despite describing it as "The modern tradition of kissing under the mistletoe may be more to do with 18th century fashions rather than earlier folklore associated with mistletoe. A very British thing, it is hardly practised anywhere, other than in Englishspeaking countries. "  No mention of the fact that the pic is of Plastic Mistletoe, probably Made in China, and modelled on American Mistletoe. 

What sort of ‘very British thing’ is that???   Get a grip, National Trust.

Mistletoe Auctions 2007 Auction #2

46reduced Tuesday Dec 4th, and the second of the traditional three Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Auctions.

As described last week, the venue is out of town this year, and, like last week, there’s a steady patter of drizzley rain from a grey sky.  But lots of mistletoe.

Prices for mistletoe are still low, there’s too much good stuff about this season, though holly prices are much higher, and there are more holly lots this week than last.

41reduced Everything goes as normal, the new site already seems familiar (though, as stated last week, is hopefully temporary, with a return to a town site next year?).




43reducedI’m half-expecting to meet a French grower here, but no sign of him, maybe he changed his mind.  But there are the usual other suspects hanging about – me, Stan Yapp, and the usual round of buyers.  Stan (pictured left) and I have a good chat about mistletoe issues, and the media interest.  He’s here to meet up witha local journalist, and I’m doing a piece with AP’s TV service.  The Telegraph’s photographer and a photographer from Reuters are also here.   

Talking of media, the ITV footage shot last week is being broadcast as we watch the sales – David Domoney is presenting a short film on mistletoe, largely based on the auctions.  You can see it again here – don’t be put off by the irelevant ad at the start.

Mistletoe Harvest – French-style?

Harvestnormandy_1920s30s Sunday 2nd Dec – and a day spent harvesting mistletoe.  I’m out with TEME, the online mistletoe trading group from Tenbury, and we have a number of largish orders to fulfill in the next few days.

Since TEME only deal in ‘processed’ mistletoe – ie mistletoe tready to be used, not ‘raw’ on the branch we want to minimise the amount of waste we take back to the barn – so we have a team of 4, 2 in the trees (an apple orchard, naturally) and 2 on the ground, cuttting into lengths and putting straight into crates, for transfer to postal boxes later. 

French_harvest_1932_near_caen_la__2 Very very labour-intensive, and it’s a bit cold and windy too.  But fascinating nevertheless.  I haven’t brought my camera, but wish I had, as our small group, half up trees and half on the ground with cates, look just like those 1920s and 30s pics I have (see previous blogs and pics here) of the French harvest (for export to Britain). 

Mistletoe Day 2007 #3

Last leg of the day starts at dusk – the druidic ceremonies are over, and I’m back in a Stewarding role, along with the Round Table vols.  This time it’s the Christmas Lights switch-on, and the preceding entertainment – a fire show. 

No pics I’m afraid, as Caroline and I are too busy stopping small children from getting run over.  The crowd has arrived in good time, but the road closure is for a limited period, and hasn’t started yet (this is the only A-Road through town, and we have to close this and the bridge) .  The roadway gets gradually narrower as the crown increases so it’s a great relief when the road is finally closed, and the chap on the PA can stop exhorting people to get back on the pavements.  An over-keen bus driver tries to get through at the last minute, but he’s seen off by a policewoman.

First up is the fireshow (BTW, I’ve not mentioned performers by name, but you can see all of them and the schedules in this pdf leaflet), an impressive live fire juggling act , with intermittent fire-breathing – don’t try this at home kids.

Then it’s the lights switch-on, for which Mistletoe Queen Sally, and her attendant Kirsty, reappear.  Lights are then switched on… and fuel slight controversy as they been cut back this year for H&S reasions – just 2 weeks before their erection most were deemed to be too dangerous to use, so it looks a weeny bit sparse.  We’ll do better next year.

Then it’s time for the Santa procession, and time for our PA man to rouse the crowd into shouting for Santa.  He duly appears, in horse and cart, accomapnied by the town band and choral society singing carols and followed by the primary school children and parents, each brandishing a lantern they’ve made in school.  And off they go round the corner towards Santa’s Grotto, set up in St Mary’s Church…

29reduced Which means we can go and rest, for about 30 minutes.  As the next event is the Mistletoe Ball – off with the fluorescent vest, on with the suit, and prep my (v) short after dinner speech – this year my theme is mistletoe tat – plastic mistletoe, mistletoe condoms, and musical mistletoe… 

Maybe I’ll cover that another in another blog entry.

Mistletoe Day 2007 #2 (Druid ceremony)

22reduced Lunchtime, but no time for food, we need to get things ready for the Druid Ceremony.  Off to the Pump Rooms where a schools project, with children drawing mistletoe, has been underway all morning – with impressive results (no pics, sorry) but which will be taken over by the Druids programme soon.



1breduced_2 Lots of Druids already turning up, from all over – Yorkshire, Dorset, North Wales, Manchester, Norfolk and locally.  The overall organising group is the Druidic Mistletoe Foundation, the group who’ve been here for the auctions over the last 2 years (see previous blogs…).



20reduced This year the plan is different – not so much a blessing of the crop, but more a celebration of Tenbury’s mistletoe traditions, and a healing ceremony, using mistletoe’s reputation as an all-heal to help Tenbury recover from the devastating floods of the summer.  And because the plan is different there has to be an open discussion about what will be covered – these druid ceremonies are very democratic.  So everyone sits in a circle in the pump rooms and debates the ceremony – which takes a little time. 





16reducedI stand near the door to check for the arrival of spectators and am gradually overwhelmed by people appearing in 2s and 3s – asking where the ceremony will be, have I missed it yet etc etc.  I explain, many times, that the event is being planned democratically inside the building, and that they can go and watch if they like – and so they do, eventually getting to a point where I can’t get in, so I don’t know what’s being planned, but I’ve got a fair idea.

When all’s done we all emerge, I set up a tripod (of French mistletoe harvesting tools) to hang the mistletoe from, and to form the centre of the circle, and we’re off.  And The Sun Comes Out!!  Lasting until the minute the ceremony ends. Very weird.

26reducedThe ceremony itself involves calling the quarters Spirits of the North, south, east and west), symbolic blood-letting (with red wine from Spar) to represent the white bulls mentioned in Pliny’s account of druidic ceremonies, blessings for Tenbury and mistletoe, and individual contributions from all those present (who include Rod and Rue Chapman, mistletoe-enthusiasts from Norfolk). 


24reduced Plus some sharing of bread – which, with passing the wine around too, is very reminiscent of Christian traditions too – which is, I think, what I said the first time i saw one of these ceremonies about 4 years ago. So much similarity exists across religions – and yet there is so much animosity between (most of) them.  Crazy.

A longish do – lasting the best part of an hour, and attracting a lot of attention from passers by, and the spectators who’ve been here form the start.  And then we all troop back indoors for a chat about druidic traditions, the work of the Mistletoe Foundation and a musical performance by Stefan and Paul, 2 of the key players in the MF.

Then back to the rest of the Mistletoe Festival… see next entry…

Mistletoe Day 2007 #1

Long, tiring, but very rewarding…  That was National Mistletoe Day 2007, Saturday December 1st.  All of this year’s Mistletoe Festival activities were crammed into the one day, so there was quite a lot on…

10breduced_2We started in Gloucestershire, worrying about the forecast rain, and dashing off to get some mistletoe for the Druids.  They were due to do a ceremony later, using mistletoe that hadn’t touched the ground, so I cropped some from an orchard in Haresfield (the one where the balloon landed – see previous blogs), so that I could be sure of its status. 

Then off to Tenbury – a 75 minute journey with lots to do when we get there.  Starting with decorating the town with mistletoe…  I had dropped off two crates of mistletoe at the Tenbury Tourist Office yesterday afternoon – and this was due to be carried round to all the shops, so each could have mistletoe hanging outside.  We were behind schedule, so this was a tall order, but most shops were visited, and all but one (Scrooge the jeweller) were happy to participate.


15breducedI was on Stewarding duty – so should have been helping the street entertainment, but soon realised, as several costumed stilt-walkers passed us on our mistletoe deliveries, that the street entertainment was already well underway, with or without my help….

Though a dull morning, the rain held off, and stilt walking ‘Christmas Trees’ and ‘Camels’ (a pantomime horse on stilts!) livened the place up very quickly.  Round the back of the Royal Oak there were Mummers Plays, Period Music, and most importantly for us, COFFEE.



5breducedBut I’ve missed a bit… The Crowning of The Queen!  This was at about 11.15, before the mummers etc started.  Our Mistletoe Queen and attendant (Tenbury High School Head Girl and Deputy HG) arrived by Rolls Royce, looking a bit cold, and hung around waiting for Queen Victoria (who is, as I’m sure you know, a time-traveller [probably due to that meeting with Dr Who in the mistletoe v werewolf episode]).

Soon afterwards Queen V turns up and regales the crowd with how happy she is returning to her ‘town in the orchard’ , which she first visited in 1833 when she was a 14-year-old Princess.  She took tea at The Bridge Hotel.  Very convincing patter, you’d never guess that Alec Wall and I had to jog her memory on these points only the day before (using telephonic communication equipment, amazing what these Victorians can do). 

6breducedMtoe Queen (Sally Neath) is invited on stage (yes we do have a stage, in the street) and duly crowned, with an enormous mistletoe crown.  Her deputy, Kirsty Davies, gets a smaller one, and Head and Deputy Head Boys Ben Blackmore and Tim Goom stand around in uniform, looking slightly embarrassed. 

12breducedAll good stuff, with lots of press pictures.  And our new Queen will return later for the lights…  Meanwhile Victoria and her lady-in waiting tour the streets of Tenbury, in character, with Vic clutching a guide to Osbourne House, IoW- I know she likes it there, but not sure why she needs it here, maybe she’s thinking of building something similar?  Now that would definitely put Tenbury on the map – the shade of Victoria builds a mansion….

But it’s time to prepare for the Druids… and I’ll report on that in the next entry, this is already too long.