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The Tenbury Mistletoe Festival & National Mistletoe Day

Updated on December 10, 2016
Pollyanna Jones profile image

Pollyanna writes about folklore, magic, history and legends, focussing on British, Irish, Germanic, and Celtic cultures.

Father Christmas inspects the mistletoe and holly for sale at the auctions
Father Christmas inspects the mistletoe and holly for sale at the auctions | Source
A modern-day Druid blesses the harvested mistletoe at Tenbury Wells
A modern-day Druid blesses the harvested mistletoe at Tenbury Wells | Source
Performers from a play at the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival 2014, who gave a retelling of the story of the death of Baldur, the Norse god, slain by mistletoe and trickery.
Performers from a play at the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival 2014, who gave a retelling of the story of the death of Baldur, the Norse god, slain by mistletoe and trickery. | Source

Tenbury is a picturesque market town in the north west of Worcestershire in England. It sits on the banks of the river Teme, which marks the border between Worcestershire and Shropshire. The county of Herefordshire is only a mile away.

Originally named "Temettebury", the town was granted a Royal Charter to hold a market in 1249. In the 1840s, "Wells" was added to Tenbury to promote the mineral waters that naturally occur at this town. Pump rooms were built in a Chinese Gothic style, which can still be seen to this day.

The landscape is a rural one, with orchards once being an important part of the local economy. "The Town in the Orchard" is famed for its apple and damson trees. Whilst many still operate, there are plenty of orchards left in a retired state when the fruit trees are past their best. The fruit harvest is celebrated each October at the Tenbury Applefest. Once the bounty of fruit has passed, another crop is harvested; mistletoe (viscum album).

Wherever you go in this part of England, you will see clumps of mistletoe growing in the trees and hedges. It is this plant that brings people from all over the country, and even further afield. For Tenbury Wells has earned the title of "England's Mistletoe Capital". This semi-parasitic plant grows all over the place, and left to its own devices would kill off a great number of trees. Harvesting helps keep the plant under control and prevents it from becoming a menace, as well as being a boost for the local economy.

1st December has been recognised by British Parliament as "National Mistletoe Day"

The Tenbury Wells Pump Rooms, draped with mistletoe for the festival.
The Tenbury Wells Pump Rooms, draped with mistletoe for the festival. | Source
Dublin isn't the only place where you can find quaint Georgian doors! A sprig or two of mistletoe decorates every building in the town centre during the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival.
Dublin isn't the only place where you can find quaint Georgian doors! A sprig or two of mistletoe decorates every building in the town centre during the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival. | Source
The Mayor crowns the Mistletoe Queen, during the 2014 event.
The Mayor crowns the Mistletoe Queen, during the 2014 event. | Source

The Mistletoe Festival

Each year in December, the town comes alive to celebrate its legacy with mistletoe. Holly and mistletoe are harvested and the auctions begin at the end of November, around the time that Tenbury's Christmas lights are switched on.

Mistletoe auctions have been held in the town for over a hundred years and in modern times are held on the last Tuesday of November, and then on the first and second Tuesdays in December.

The main mistletoe festival day takes place on the first Saturday after 1st December. A local girl is crowned the Mistletoe Queen, and a lantern-lit parade makes its way through the town as the winter sun sets.

With plenty of events and stalls to keep the townsfolk and visitors entertained, all ages are catered for at the festival. Activities and entertainers keep the children amused, whilst more sophisticated events such as a jazz evening help you to unwind over a hot mulled wine in one of the town's many historic pubs.

Mistletoe decorates the streets and local businesses who are proud to show off the town's association with the plant. Local artisans and businesses offer plenty of choice for those seeking a unique Christmas present for a loved one.

After dark, Tenbury becomes a magical place filled with musicians and story-tellers. Many events are free of charge, but a few require tickets which can be purchased in advance from the festival's website.

The main mistletoe festival day takes place on the first Saturday after 1st December

Vintage car at the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival.
Vintage car at the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival. | Source
A mistletoe plant making its home in an apple tree
A mistletoe plant making its home in an apple tree | Source
The Tenbury Mistletoe Queen, 2014.
The Tenbury Mistletoe Queen, 2014. | Source

National Mistletoe Day

The Tenbury Mistletoe Association was formed in 2004, to promote and preserve the traditions around the town's mistletoe heritage. The townsfolk realised that their mistletoe traditions were at risk when the auction houses closed, moving the auctions out of town. The heart of mistletoe was being taken out of Tenbury, and it was going to be an effort to bring it back.

Their efforts have been a huge success, with the annual Mistletoe Festival going from strength-to-strength.

1st December has been recognised by British Parliament as "National Mistletoe Day", after the Association petitioned the government for some national recognition for this important festive crop. Since 2005, this event has been noted all over the country.

The day is marked by a number of Druidic groups, for whom this plant is sacred, as well as those that love this festive plant. Supporters of mistletoe might wear a sprig pinned to their jackets, whilst others go the full hog and hang a bunch in or outside their homes.

There are many traditions and customs around mistletoe, which will be looked at in more detail in their own article. These include the belief that saving mistletoe in the house would prevent it from being struck by lightning, to the more widely known Victorian tradition of kissing under a bunch of mistletoe.

Mistletoe will last for weeks as long as it is kept cool and sprayed with water mist every other day. If kept in the house without this, it will quickly dry up and shrivel into an unattractive mess. It is the perfect addition to a festive wreath, or a small bunch hung over the doorway makes a delightful feature to welcome visitors to your home.

So why not get yourself a sprig of this festive plant? You never know when a Yuletide kiss will be needed!

An apple orchard, past its prime, is now used to grow a crop of mistletoe.
An apple orchard, past its prime, is now used to grow a crop of mistletoe. | Source

Further Information

If you are interested in the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival, please be sure to take a look at their website for up-to-date information about the events each year:

http://www.tenburymistletoe.org/index.html

This article specifically looks at the Festival and National Mistletoe Day. Further articles are in the works that look at medicinal uses, and the auctions among other things.

In this series:
- The Magic of Mistletoe; looking at the folklore and superstitious uses of this plant

A markerTenbury Wells, Worcestershire, England -
Tenbury Wells, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire WR15, UK
get directions

Tenbury Wells is found in north east Worcestershire, just over an hour's drive from Worcester or Birmingham.

© 2014 Pollyanna Jones

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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Interesting hub Pollyanna. I have always wondered what the importance of mistletoe was especially in regard to where the tradition of "kissing under the mistletoe" came from. Interesting also that there is a town famous for it, an that Tenbury has a festival.

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image
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      Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      More to come soon, Jodah! I've been doing a lot of research around mistletoe and Tenbury, and decided to split it all into separate articles as there is just so much to write about. The plan is that when they are all finished, I will add links to each "chapter" within each Hub. I promise, the traditions will be looked at in full, with their origins explained. Thanks for reading!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Perfect hub for the holiday season! Voted up, interesting and sharing!

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Wonderful article, thank you. Great to see Father Christmas in green and of course the Druid (speaking in? old English, Celtic or modern English). Mistletoe has this aura around it - magical yes - it used to be there above the door I think at many Christmas parties I went to as a child. Then later as an adolescent I discovered its true purpose!

      Shares and voted up.

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image
      Author

      Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      heidithorne, and chef-de-jour, thank you! That's very kind! I am so glad you enjoyed the read. The Druids ceremony is spoken in modern English tongue, but I am certain for their own private purposes, older languages are spoken. I know of a few that conduct their ceremonies in Welsh, and also some in Kernowek (Cornish), but it all depends on which part of the country the group is from.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      This is nice. Thank you for the virtual travel back in time and history.

      Voting up and sharing.

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image
      Author

      Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you CrisSp, it is a lovely place to visit in person if you ever get the opportunity to do so.

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image
      Author

      Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you CrisSp, it is a lovely place to visit in person if you ever get the opportunity to do so.

    • CarolynEmerick profile image

      Carolyn Emerick 2 years ago

      Love this! I bet they have fab cider and was sailing traditions here too. Especially loved the Druid blessing the orchard.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for sharing the interesting information about the connection between mistletoe and Tenbury, Pollyanna. I loved the photos, too - especially the one of Father Christmas in green!

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image
      Author

      Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks Carolyn and AliciaC! Yes, there are plenty of orchard traditions in this area too.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      Great holiday hub! I like that Santa, too. Isn't it interesting that mistletoe is a parasitic plant and that mistletoe means "dung twig"?

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image
      Author

      Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      Those Anglo Saxons were an observant lot, yes. They thought it was bird poo that spread the seeds, but we now know that they are spread by the birds wiping their beaks on a bough. I am glad you enjoyed the read FlourishAnyway!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      Pollyanna, What an interesting festival time for an area so abundantly adorned with mistletoe. I have had so many holes n my knowledge filled in by this hub.

      Angels are on the way to you. ps

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image
      Author

      Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you, I am glad it helped increase your knowledge about this plant. Thanks for reading! x

    • James Slaven profile image

      James Slaven 3 months ago from Indiana, USA

      This was a wonderful read! I very much enjoyed this, from the festival to all the folklore.

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