Halloween is commonly known as the holiday where people dress in costume, go trick or treating, and seek out a good fright. These staples have been the focus of the holiday for quite some time, but what some might not know is Halloween’s more amorous roots and fortune-telling matchmaking rituals.
During a time when the holiday was coming into its own, it was common for singles, most notably young ladies, to partake in these rituals which became an integral part in celebrating Halloween. These matchmaking rituals ranged from the creepy to the absurd. Thanks to the preservation of old Halloween postcards we now have an idea of how some of our ancestors spent their nights on all Hallow’s eve…
Fortune telling in cakes has been a tradition for many different holidays. The Irish had their own version called Barmbrack where various objects were baked into bread to tell one’s future relationship status. If a person received a pea, that person would not marry in the upcoming year, a stick would signify an unhappy marriage, and a ring would mean that person would be wed within a year.
Before the pumpkin took center stage as the primary vegetable for Halloween, it shared the limelight with another vegetable….the cabbage. Back in the days when Halloween focused more on causing mischief and playing pranks, rotten cabbages were often used as the perfect instrument to throw at your victims and their leaves could also be used to build up bonfires.
The cabbage’s popularity also made its way into becoming a fortune telling device. One popular method was for a girl to steal a cabbage and then place that cabbage over a door. The first man the cabbage fell on would be the man she was supposed to marry. Women would also pick cabbages and use the stumps to predict information about their future husband.
Another popular Halloween tradition left in the past included the use of hazelnuts. Single ladies would grab a handful and write the names of potential love interests on each one. They would then toss the hazelnuts into the fire, the nut that burned to ashes, instead of popping, represented the ideal match.
There were even poems dedicated to this fortune telling practice.
The Test of the Nuts
I’ve named three nuts and placed them
Side by side on the grate,
The one which cracks is unfaithful,
The lover I know I should hate.
The one which blazes with brilliant fire,
Tells of high regard, ’tis said,
But the one which burns with a steady flame
Names the man whom I shall wed.
Apples have always had a seductive connotation since the Garden of Eden. Apples are of course also plentiful in the fall and their fortune telling methods varied widely. It was no surprise that apples would be heavily used to determine one’s future beau…
One popular fortune telling method was peeling an apple in one long strand. The eligible lady would then toss the peel over her and then check to see what letter the apple formed. The letter was supposed to represent the husband’s first initial.
Have you ever bobbed for apples? If so, then you have in some way participated in an old school holiday matchmaking tradition. These days people only bob for apples for fun, but back in the olden days, it was all done to find the perfect mate. At parties it was popular for ladies to mark apples and drop them in a tub of water. Men would then “bob” for the apples to find a match.
An even older tradition than bobbing for apples was tying the stems and biting them apples in midair. Single ladies and gents would label apples with their initials try their best to bite into the apple of the person they wished to mingle with. A more delicious twist was to use different apple types to indicate the quality of a future marriage: “wholesome, fiery, or sweet.”
Perhaps the most popular tradition of the time was also the creepiest. Young women would often go into a darkened room, holding a single candle and then would gaze into a mirror to catch a glimpse of her future husband. If a woman saw a skull in place of a handsome face, it would mean that they would die before they married. This practice was especially popular on Halloween night, at the stroke of midnight.
So, this year when the moon is full and bright, try your hand at a fortune telling delight, you might just find your true love on Halloween night.