Apple Bobbing, Apple Dooking, Apple Ducking or maybe Snap Apple?

by Cie McCullough Buschle on October 30, 2010

in Arts and Culture

apple_bobbing2Apple bobbing, also known as bobbing for apples, is a game customarily 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 and young adults) then try to catch one with their teeth. Hands can not be used and are often tied behind the back to prevent cheating.

When the Romans conquered Britain they brought with them the apple tree. The apple represented Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees. She was known for her great beauty. Romans were accepting of other cultures and often combined traditions and rituals. Soon the worship of Pomona and her apple became part of the harvest celebration that would become Halloween.


The current game is actually based on a New Year tradition, where whoever bites the apple first in the group will be the first to marry. Girls who place the apple they bobbed under their pillows are said to dream of their future boyfriend. The tradition of throwing rice at a wedding evolved from apples being thrown originally. Ouch! That must hurt!

The term bobbing comes from the short jerking motion of the head used to get the apple. This motion is called a “bob”. In Scotland this may be called “dooking,” or ducking. In Ireland, bobbing for apples is known as “Snap Apple”, and in Newfoundland and Labrador, in Canada, Halloween is also called Snap Apple Night.

Bobbing for apples at the Texas Society Chili Cook Off, St. Thomas, USVI, 2010.


The popularity of this game is falling, possibly because people may regard it as unsanitary, although there is a variation on the game where the apples are hung on string from the ceiling. Younger children, ages five and under, sometimes use apple cider donuts, which are soft and can be easily bitten by small teeth.

Bobbing for cider donuts at Bell Top Elementary School, East Greenbush, NY, 2004


| Cie McCullough Buschle lives with her dog Einstein and a cat named Burton Guster. She is a lifelong traveler and enjoys researching history through holidays, toys, and everyday objects. Cie is a sculptor and co-owns The Creative Chameleon, a place where kids and adults can create, paint, celebrate, and just have a lot of fun. Sometimes you can find her time traveling back to the Middle Ages as part of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

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