Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Here in Hereford, we're waiting for the next dollop of snow to land on us. Hereford is a mistletoe growing county. It's been picked and sent to market for Christmas by now, but you still see huge balls of it everywhere, as you're driving around. And of course, as we're full of apple orchards for all the cider we make, there are plenty of the kind of trees that mistletoe seems to like.

In the Asterix stories, as fans will know, the mistletoe grows on oak trees and is cut by the druid with a golden sickle. Well, round here, I have never seen mistletoe on an oak tree. It's on all kinds of trees, except oaks. Perhaps you've seen some on an oak in your part of the world?

When I was writing my Christmas story, The Earl's Mistletoe Bride, (published in the UK in the double volume shown here) I wanted to create a mystery with a Christmas twist, so I spent some time researching the lore surrounding mistletoe. One of the customs I loved, and used in my story, is that of removing a berry from the sprig of mistletoe every time a couple kisses under it. That produces a pleasing urgency for the writer. If her eager hero doesn't grab his girl at the first opportunity, he may lose out when there are no berries left. Can't have that, can we?

There are lots of other mistletoe customs, too, not all of them positive. Did you know, for example, that mistletoe isn't supposed to be used in churches? The reason isn't certain. It may be the tradition that the cross was made from mistletoe; or perhaps because druids allegedly used mistletoe in human sacrifices. So no mistletoe in the Christmas bride's bouquet, I'm afraid, pretty though it would be.

All best wishes to you, and to those you love, for the festive season.



Jan Jones said...

How odd about mistletoe and churches. I'd always thought mistletoe was considered quite effective in a promoting-fertility way.

Maybe they didn't want the bride and groom getting carried away before they were properly sanctified!

Joanna Maitland said...

It's not just weddings, Jan. It's not supposed to be used in any church decorations. So not, for example, in Christmas flowers.

But I love the idea of bride and groom getting carried away under the mistletoe... Really fires the imagination, that one. And what about the congregation as well???