Merry Kissmass! Romantics and retailers flock to England's Mistletoe Town for annual festive auctionBuyers converged on Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, for the annual mistletoe auctionMore than 1,000 lots of mistletoe were up for grabs along with Christmas trees and holly
22:19 GMT, 4 December 2012
It's the age-old tradition that has sparked a thousand festive romances and led to many ill-advised post-office Christmas party flings.
And in spite of this year's wet weather, it's time to pucker up again this year as a bumper crop of mistletoe went under the hammer at a unique auction earlier today.
More than a thousand lots of the season's most popular aphrodisiac were up for grabs as hundreds of wholesalers, retailers and no doubt a few people hoping for some festive flirting this year converged on Tenbury Wells for the town's annual mistletoe auction.
The auction is part of the town's mistletoe season and festival which runs from late November until Christmas.
Pucker up: A bumper crop of mistletoe and holly went under the hammer at Tenbury Wells today
Crop: 1,200 lots of mistletoe were up for grabs at the auction which is held three times a year the England's 'Mistletoe Town'
Foliage: Buyers check out this year's crop of mistletoe which had been under threat from poor weather
Bidding war: The auction is open to wholesalers, retailers and general members of the public hoping for a festive flirt
The Worcestershire town – sat right at the heart of the UK's mistletoe country and known as the nation's 'Mistletoe Town' – holds the auctions on the last Tuesday of every November and the first two Tuesdays of December.
Today's bidders had 1,200 lots of mistletoe, 3,000 wreaths and 250 Christmas trees to bid for today, despite this year's crop being threatened by poor weather and affecting some of the foliage.
The crop was blessed by druids who also performed a ceremonial march before the auction got under way.
According to auctioneer Nick Champion's website, stocks of mistletoe are often snapped up for use on cruise ships and at wedding receptions.
Amorous: One buyer bagged bunches of the parasite, traditionally favoured by kissing couples at this time of year
Tradition: The mistletoe, holly and Christmas trees were all blessed by druids before the auction started
Heart of mistletoe country: Some buyers travelled hundreds of miles to visit the auction at Tenbury Wells
The Mistletoe Festival was set up in 2004 when the traditional auctions, held in the town for more than 100 years came under threat.
The town is perfectly positioned to host the auction – mistletoe mainly grows in the UK around the south west Midlands in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Somerset.
It is a parasite which can only grow on tree branches. It grows on a variety of tree types but particularly favours apple trees.
As well as being popular at this time of year among kissing couples, mistletoe has been touted for it's health benefits in recent years, with experts announcing today that it could be useful in the fight against colon cancer.
PUCKER UP! A HISTORY OF MISTLETOE
Pucker up: Couples traditionally enjoy a kiss under the mistletoe at this time of year
It's not certain where the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe actually originates but its connection to Christmas is likely to have something to do with the druids.
They believed that mistletoe could perform miracles and protect people from witches. It was also believed to help both animals and humans become more fertile.
Each year, druids held a special ceremony in late December or early January where they would take mistletoe from oak trees and give it to people to put in their homes to stave off evil spirits.
It is said to have become part of Christmas tradition in the Victorian era thanks to an historical fascination with druids.
The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe could originate in Viking legend. Vikings often told the story of how one of their gods – Balder – died when he was poisoned by mistletoe.
His mother Frigga is said to have brought him back to life after three days and promptly celebrated by kissing everyone who walked under the mistletoe thereafter.
It is also said to have been believed at one stage that kissing under the mistletoe would lead to marriage.
Nowadays it is hung in people's doorways around the festive season and couples who pass under it are supposed to kiss.
If done properly, the man should remove one of the mistletoe's berries after the kiss.