Bringing in the Mistletoe (1959)

Boys from Trawsfynydd collecting holly and mistletoe to sell (December 1959)

I’ve been seeing a lot of Christmas decorations going up this last week or so (although someone on my street has actually had their tree up since Halloween!). I’m still catching up a bit, I’ve only just dragged my tree out of the cupboard where it lives for the rest of the year – although I have bought some cute new ornaments already and have been wondering where I might get some sprigs of holly to add to the festive wreath I hang on my front door.

These cheerful young lads might have helped me in that last respect. They’re from the Welsh village of Trawsfynydd, and they have been preparing for Christmas in traditional fashion by gathering festive greenery from the local area.

Photographer Geoff Charles has caught these 1950s schoolboys on their way to the market to sell their carefully gathered bundles of holly and mistletoe; green winter treasures that are destined to decorate the houses and cottages of the village for Christmas – and earn these young entrepreneurs a bit of pocket money towards festive expenses too…

The lads in this charming 1959 photograph from the National Library of Wales collection would have had an amazing natural environment to grow up in, and Christmas traditions connected to the landscape like gathering seasonal greenery for the home or for sale would likely have been a longstanding custom repeated by successive generations of kids and adults.

Bringing in the mistletoe and taking it to market was a tradition rich in symbolism elsewhere too, which you can see in these 18th and 19th-century images of mistletoe sellers from France and Switzerland. It is pleasing to report that mistletoe markets remain part of the Christmas season in numerous places to this day.

For lots more Christmas reading (and viewing) from me, click here

 

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