Apple Bobbing

Apple Bobbing

When you weren’t prowling the neighborhood to fill your pillowcases with candy, you might have participated in a peculiar game on those Halloweens of yesteryear, that of apple bobbing. And, if you ever plunged your face underwater in a maddening attempt to sink your chompers into a piece of floating fruit, you may have wondered why. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re happy to tell you what we do know about this odd holiday tradition.

For the uninitiated, Apple Bobbing is the popular Halloween activity that starts with filling a large tub with water, then placing a number of apples in the water. The apples float because they are less dense. You might even say they bob around a bit. And if you are partaking in this challenging game, you will do some bobbing of your own.

Your job is to simply sink your teeth into one of the floating apples. It sounds easy, except that the slightest push from your teeth pushes the apple underwater. Your face, of course, follows, and you try to emerge victorious without, um, drowning. Oh, it’s not really all that dangerous, unless you happened to be the pig-headed type who would insist on staying submerged for too long.

At some point while you bobbed for apples, you probably asked yourself “Why do we do this?” and maybe even “Where did it come from?”. Perfectly understandable. The truth is, we don’t know much about the origins, although there is plenty of wonderful speculation.

We do know that it started in Great Britain, that it is at least hundreds of years old, and that it is still practiced annually throughout the region in various forms. Across the pond, it is also known as “apple ducking” and “Snap Apple.” Some say it started back when the Romans introduced the apple to England. Some say it was part of an ancient pagan fertility ritual. Some say it was a ceremony that was used to predict whom one would marry in the future. Take your pick.

Regardless of how and when it started, it has endured for centuries, and a Halloween party just wouldn’t be the same without a bunch of people getting their face wet. The simple answer to the question of “why?” is that we do it because it is fun.

One last bit of advice before we go – If you ever happen to find yourself in an apple bobbing competition, there is a trick that will allow you to emerge victorious every time. By pushing your apple of choice firmly against the wall of the tub with your face, you can force it to stay still while you take a healthy bite. Not that we would encourage cheating; we’re just having a discussion about technique, that’s all. (and, you’re welcome.)

What childhood memories do you harbor from dunking your head underwater as part of this time-honored ritual? We’d love to hear all of your apple bobbing memories in our comments section below.

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