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.

Apple bobbing

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 Wales, it is known as "Twco Fale" (Apple Ducking).

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]


Halloween, 1915, Howard Chandler Christy
North Texas Agricultural College students bobbing for apples, circa 1930s

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. The Romans brought with them the apple tree, a representation of the goddess of plenty, Pomona.[dubious ]During an annual celebration, young unmarried people try to bite into an apple floating in water or hanging from a string on a line, rather than in a bowl of water;[3] 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.

A maiden who placed the apple she bobbed under her pillow was said to dream of her future sweetheart.[4]

In popular cultureEdit

Agatha Christie's mystery novel Hallowe'en Party, is about a girl, named Joyce, who mysteriously drowned in an apple-bobbing tub.[5]

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ Halloween, Silver RavenWolf, p77, ISBN 1-56718-719-6. Retrieved 21 October 2008.
  4. ^ "What is bobbing for apples?",
  5. ^ Christie, Agatha. Hallowe'en Party