The Romantic Origins Of Bobbing For Apples

As the crisp autumn air starts to roll in and the leaves scatter at your feet, it's exciting to think about the return of your favorite apple-infused fall recipes — apple cider, warm apple pie, and sticky candy apples, to name a few. Or maybe you're gearing up for your next Halloween party and need to do some apple picking for a lively game of bobbing for apples you have planned. It's a simple and hilariously entertaining game, but it's actually rooted in centuries of tradition. 

This classic fall pastime has evolved as it's been passed down over the years, so it hasn't always been about submerging your face in a water basin full of floating fruit just for the challenge. Bobbing for apples has a romantic origin story that relied on prediction and superstition.

Much like a Facebook quiz where your whole love life's destiny is foretold depending on your answers to its very basic questions, bobbing for apples used to serve a similar purpose. Though, rather than answering questions, players had to ensure their attempts were calculated enough to guarantee them a good outcome. Here's how the popular game was played originally.

Bobbing for apples started as a symbolic courting ritual

Initially introduced in Europe, bobbing for apples once served as a way for young women to see if a relationship with their crush was in their future and how the couple's connection would fare. And there were many different ways for courters to play the game. 

According to, "In one set of rules, each apple was assigned to a potential mate. The bobber would then attempt to bite into the apple named for the young man she desired." If the player scored a catch on their first try, she and her man were guaranteed soulmates. Two attempts to snag the apple meant their love would blossom at first before fading away one day, a temporary fling with an expiration date. Three tries at the bobbing basin, and she could forget about it working out with her intended whatsoever.

Other versions of the game predicted marriage for whoever could bite into an apple first, and some even believed they'd dream of their lover if they placed the prize apple under their pillow that night. Comfy! Bobbing for apples remained a game traditionally played around October 31 due to the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which is "a Gaelic celebration that marked the end of harvest season and the beginning of winter," explains Allrecipes. Americans eventually picked it up from Irish and European immigrants and made it the family-friendly game it is today.