Bobbing for apples has been a fun and festive fall activity for centuries. But where did it come from? The history of this unique game is long and full of traditions from across the globe. Let’s dive in!
There are differing accounts of where and when bobbing for apples originated. Some say that the game came from the Romans when they invaded Britain; other sources claim that the tradition likely has roots in Celtic and Norse history. If we were to go with the Celtic and Norse origin story, we would need to talk about the goddesses that protected apples, as well as the general mythology that surrounds this sacred fruit.
According to the Celts, apples were sacred fruits, gifted to them by the Celtic Otherworld. Cliodhna, a goddess and Celtic fairy queen, resides in an eternal apple tree, from which her divine birds also perch on and eat.
Meanwhile, the ancient Norse culture believed that apples were the fruit of immortality, and were guarded by the goddess Idunn.
Whatever the case, there is evidence that apples were first brought to Ireland around 6,000 B.C., where, of course, they have been grown and harvested ever since.
As well as being sacred fruits, apples have historically been used in the search for romance.
In Victorian times, young girls would often play games to find out who their future husbands would be – games that involved apples. One game claimed that, by peeling an apple at midnight and then throwing the peel over your shoulder or into a bowl of water, you could find out your husband’s initials. Another game said that if you ate an apple and combed your hair in front of a mirror at midnight, your husband would appear in the mirror over your left shoulder (which sounds terrifying, but to each their own!).
In the United States, a group of single boys and girls would bob for apples, and the first one to surface with an apple in his or her mouth would be the first to get married.
In November, on Bonfire Night, bobbing for apples is simply seen as an entertaining activity for hungry people while the rest of the festive food is being prepared.
All in all, if you do go bobbing for apples, now you know that you’re searching for a much more sacred fruit than you originally thought – and who knows, maybe you’ll even figure out who your future spouse is in the process!