COVID-19: Mistletoe sellers forced to kiss goodbye seasonal sales

A mistletoe auctioneer has had to cancel his annual sales of the plant for the first time in his memory because of COVID-19.

Nick Champion said Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire had historically been the centre for mistletoe sales since Victorian times, but the pandemic had forced its closure.

"It's rather sad really", he told Sky News, "I've been doing it since 1977 and we expected to be doing it again at Christmas - that's what we gear up for - but this year it's not to be.

"COVID has put a hat on it and we've got to look to do something else.

"For that reason we are trying to take a few orders for regular customers".

The 62 year old said he'd probably sell around 75% less mistletoe than normal.

"We get buyers from all over the country - from Scotland down to Kent - and we buy quite a bit of mistletoe and holly for regular customers and we despatch it to southern Ireland for instance.

"We even get a chap who comes from Holland every year to buy mistletoe but he's already been in touch to say he's not coming over this time".

Mr Champion said the parasitic plant liked to grow on apple trees, so Worcestershire and surrounding counties, with their plentiful orchards, provided an "ideal climate" for its growth.

"There will be parts of the country where it's more difficult to find this year," he said.

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Farmer Michael Lewis harvests mistletoe for auction and although it isn't his "main income stream" it did provide him with a "Christmas bonus".

"It's like mince pies and holly - mistletoe. It's just sort of what you class as Christmas, to be honest - what you think is Christmas", he said.

"You can see it just brings a bit of brightness into people's lives.

"The old story is, you kiss under the mistletoe and pick a berry off. Of course, with social distancing you won't be able to kiss under the mistletoe, not a stranger anyway.

"You might be able to kiss your wife or partner. It seems a bit sad to me but that's the time we live in at the moment".

The tradition of Christmas mistletoe kissing started in ancient Greece where the plant was associated with fertility.

During the Roman era, it represented peace because enemies at war used to reconcile their differences under a branch of mistletoe.

During the Victorian era, if any girl refused to kiss, it was believed she would not receive marriage proposals for at least the coming year.