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Apple bobbing

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Title: Apple bobbing  
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Subject: Geography of Halloween, Party games, Halloween, Parade of the Lost Souls, Pin the tail on the donkey
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Apple bobbing

Apple bobbing

Apple bobbing, also known as bobbing for apples, is a game often played on Halloween. The game is played by filling a tub or a large basin with water and putting apples in the water. Because apples are less dense than water, they will float at the surface. Players (usually children) then try to catch one with their teeth. Use of arms is not allowed, and often are tied behind the back to prevent cheating.

In Scotland, this may be called "dooking"[1] (i.e., ducking). In northern England, the game is often called apple ducking or duck-apple.

In Ireland, mainly County Kerry, it is known as "Snap Apple", and in Newfoundland and Labrador, "Snap Apple Night" is a synonym for Halloween.[2]


  • History 1
  • Variations 2
  • In popular culture 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5


The tradition of bobbing for apples dates back to the Roman invasion of Britain, when the conquering army merged their own celebrations with traditional Celtic festivals.[3] The Romans brought with them the apple tree, a representation of the goddess of fruit trees, Pomona.

When an apple is sliced in half, the seeds form a pentagram-like shape, and it is thought that the manifestation of such a symbol meant that the apple could be used to determine marriages during this time of year. From this belief comes the game bobbing for apples. During the annual celebration, young unmarried people try to bite into an apple floating in water or hanging from a string; the first person to bite into the apple would be the next one to be allowed to marry.

The custom is mentioned (along with apples suspended on a string) in 18th century Ireland by Charles Vallancey in his book Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis.

Girls who placed the apple they bobbed under their pillows were said to dream of their future lover.[4]


A variation of the game exists, with the apples hung on string on a line, rather than in a bowl of water.[5]

In popular culture

Agatha Christie's mystery novel Hallowe'en Party, is about a girl who is drowned in an apple-bobbing tub.[6]

In a SpongeBob SquarePants episode called "Scaredy Pants", Mr. Krabs manages to catch an apple while he was apple bobbing, but accidentally swallows it and chokes on it.

See also


  1. ^ Apple dookers make record attempt, BBC News, 2 October, 2008
  2. ^ Dictionary of Newfoundland English, George Morley Story, W. J. Kirwin, John David Allison, p500, ISBN 0-8020-6819-7
  3. ^ , 30 October 2010Daily Mail"Now health chiefs ban bobbing for apples in case germs are spread...",
  4. ^ "What is bobbing for apples?",
  5. ^ Halloween, Silver RavenWolf, p77, ISBN 1-56718-719-6. Retrieved 21 October 2008.
  6. ^ Hallowe'en PartyChristie, Agatha.
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