Bobbing for apples is one of the many old-school traditions we do around Halloween, like trick-or-treating and carving jack-o'-lanterns. Although many have seen a game of apple bobbing at a Halloween party or in a movie, few know the history of this Halloween game. Bobbing for apples is more than just a silly party game- it was originally a courting ritual in the 14th century!
Although there are different variations of the game, all of them involve dunking your head into a tub of water, biting a floating apple, and pulling it out without using your hands. In some games, the person who gets the most apples wins, and in others, it's the first person to successfully grab one. No matter how you play, participants will likely be soaked and laughing by the end of the game.
The History of Bobbing for Apples
As lighthearted as this game sounds, it was taken pretty seriously when first created. The apple bobbing ritual was originally part of a Roman festival celebrating Pomona, the goddess of agriculture. When the Romans conquered Britain, they brought along their traditions, and the Pomona festival was combined with Samhain, a pagan Celtic festival that eventually became Halloween.
In this festival, the bobbing apple game was used as a courting ritual, in which women and men could see the future of their relationship. According to History.com, women would bob for apples named for their suitor. If the woman bit into the apple in one try, the relationship was destined for love. If it took two tries, the suitor would be interested the female, but the relationship wouldn't last. If the bobbing took three tries or more, the romance was doomed from the start.
Another variation was racing, in which the first person to bite an apple would be the first to get married. Some young ladies even kept the bitten apple under their pillow as a way to meet their soulmate in their dreams.
There are a few different names for the game in Britain, depending on the region. In Scotland, apple bobbing was called "dooking" or "ducking." In Northern England, it's called "duck-apple" or "apple ducking." As for Ireland, they all it snap apple, and in Newfoundland and Labrador, they even call Halloween "Snap Apple Night."