The Fiery Halloween Tradition That Gave Us Bobbing for Apples

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iStock

Bobbing for apples, though sometimes comparable to dunking your head in a cesspool of saliva, is a relatively harmless fall tradition. But it wasn’t always the kid-friendly activity we know today. Early versions of the game played in Britain on Halloween night lacked the tub of water, but they did include fire, hot wax, and a lot more injuries to the face.

Written recordings of Snap-Apple date back to at least the 14th century. Like bobbing for apples, the game had players catch apples in their mouths without using their hands. To make things even more difficult, apples were placed on one end of a wooden plank hung horizontally from the ceiling which was then spun in circles. Chomping at an apple as it whipped around the room was only half the challenge. At the other end of the board was a burning candle: Players who didn’t retrieve the apple in time risked getting walloped in the face with molten candle wax.

The 1833 painting below, titled Snap-Apple Night, depicts a round of the game in action. A few years after it was made, a writer for The Literary Gazette, and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences described the image in detail:

"... see the open mouth of the adventurous peasant who is going to make a bite at the fruit,—and what a mouth!—the sweet child at his foot seems to look with wonder at its capacity. Look at the fellow behind him grinning with pain, having made an unsuccessful bite, and caught the candle instead of the apple; and see that hand thrust from behind a backward group, giving the machine a malicious twitch to increase its speed …"

Painting of people playing games on Halloween.

Snap-Apple Night, Daniel Maclise

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Despite its risks, Snap-Apple was a beloved part of the harvest season in England and Ireland. The tradition became so popular that it was literally synonymous with Halloween, with many people referring to October 31 as "Snap-Apple Night." In Wales, the date was sometimes called "Snotching Night" in reference to the act of snatching or "snotching" the apples from the beam.

As the holiday evolved, less fiery apple-centric games began popping up beneath the Snap-Apple umbrella. According to The New York Times, one iteration of the game had players struggle to wrangle an apple with their mouths as it hung from the ceiling by a string. Superstition held that whoever succeeded in biting the fruit first would be the first to walk down the aisle, reflecting the days when Halloween was as much a time for romance as it was for horror.

Today, only one version of the game is still played at Halloween parties: the one that requires participants to dunk their faces into a pool of lukewarm water. Like Snap-Apple, bobbing for apples often ends with ruined clothing, but at least related visits to the emergency room are rare.

Learn Python From Home for Just $50

Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels.com
Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels.com

It's difficult to think of a hobby or job that doesn’t involve some element of coding in its execution. Are you an Instagram enthusiast? Coding and algorithms are what bring your friends' posts to your feed. Can’t get enough Mental Floss? Coding brings the entire site to life on your desktop and mobile screens. Even sorting through playlists on Spotify uses coding. If you're tired of playing catch-up with all the latest coding techniques and principles, the 2020 Python Programming Certification Bundle is on sale for $49.99 to teach you to code, challenge your brain, and boost your resume to get your dream job.

Basically, coding is how people speak to computers (cue your sci-fi vision of a chat with a creepy, sentient computer), and while it does sound a bit futuristic, the truth is that people are talking to computers every day through a program called Python. The 2020 Python Programming Training Certification Bundle will teach you how to build web applications, database applications, and web visualizations in the world’s most popular programming language.

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Coding is associated with endless text, numbers, and symbols, but the work code is performing is hardly limited to copy. Dig deep into image processing and computer vision tasks with sessions in OpenCV. You’ll give yourself an extra edge when you can use Python for sifting through information and implement machine learning algorithms on image classification.

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The Long, Fascinating History of Chocolate

Wikimedia Commons//Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons//Public Domain

Walk into just about any grocery or convenience store today and you're sure to find row upon row of chocolate in every imaginable form. While we have come to associate this sweet treat with companies like Hershey, chocolate has been a delicacy for centuries.

All chocolate comes from the cacao tree, which is native to the Americas, but is now grown around the world. Inside the tree’s fruits, or pods, you’ll find the cacao beans, which—once roasted and fermented—give chocolate its signature rich and complex flavor. While we don't know who first decided to turn cacao beans into chocolate, we certainly owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.

In this episode of Food History, we're digging into the history of chocolate—from its origins to the chocolate-fueled feud between J.S. Fry & Sons and Cadbury and much, much more. You can watch the full episode below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!