Mistletoe trading is a relatively modern concept – probably only dating from the mid-19th century when kissing under mistletoe had become popular across the UK (and abroad in English-speaking countries). Since much of the country had little or no mistletoe (see distribution pages) an organised harvest and trade began to be established.
Mistletoe from the main growing areas of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire began to be cut and sent around the country. This is still the case today, with a significant wholesale mistletoe market centred on Tenbury Wells on the Worcestershire-Herefordshire border.
The mistletoe auctions at Tenbury have a long history – at least 100 years. They seem to be the sole survivor of may have been a common sight in the market towns of the ‘three counties’ (Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire) from the mid 19th century onwards.
Most would have been centred on the cattle markets – and in Tenbury the auctions were still held in the traditional cattle market site until 2006. Every year the whole market ground was laid out in lots of mistletoe, and holly, and later on Christmas trees, many displayed within the cattle pens – as if they might escape…
In 2005 the market site itself was sold for redevelopment and there were fears that the mistletoe auctions would cease. This resulted in the creation of the Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Festival – an annual event celebrating the town’s history in the mistletoe trade. The auctions are, happily, continuing – alongside the other mistletoe festival events, Details of all can be found at www.tenbury-mistletoe-festival.co.uk
Not just Tenbury, and not just auctions
There is a lot of other mistletoe trading across England’s mistletoe area too, with much trading direct to local and national wholesalers and, with the advent of the internet, increasing amounts of direct retail trade to customers across the country.
For more details about buying mistletoe visit the Where to Buy page.