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 the hands are often 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 Ireland and Newfoundland and Labrador, "Snap Apple Night" is a synonym for Halloween.[2][3]


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.[4] During an annual celebration, young unmarried people try to bite into an apple floating in water or hanging from a string on a line;[5] the first person to bite into the apple would be the next one to be allowed to marry. Apple bobbing was appropriated in the Celtic festival Samhain, with apples a sign of fertility and abundance.[4]

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.[6]

A maiden who placed the apple she bobbed under her pillow was said to dream of her future sweetheart.[7] In North East England, bobbing apple is called dookie (ducking) apple

In pop cultureEdit

Agatha Christie's mystery novel Hallowe'en Party, is about a girl, named Joyce, who mysteriously drowned in an apple-bobbing tub.[8]

In a brief scene in the 1966 animated TV special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Lucy is the first person to participate in the game at a Halloween party, only for her to come face-to-face with Snoopy in the process of catching one.

In the episode, "Scaredy Pants" in the American children's animated TV series SpongeBob SquarePants, Mr. Krabs is shown playing the game and successfully catching one, but then accidentally choking until he eventually just swallows it.

In the 7th season episode "Costume Contest" of The Office (US), the cheerful but dim-witted receptionist Erin mistakenly thinks the goal is to eat as many apples as possible while submerged, causing panic in her co-workers who fear she's drowning.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Apple dookers make record attempt, BBC News, 2 October 2008
  2. ^ "Snap Apple Night, or All-Hallow Eve. January 1, 1845". Retrieved 19 October 2021. In October 1832 Daniel Maclise attended a Halloween party in Blarney, Ireland and, the next summer, exhibited a painting at London’s Royal Academy of Arts, titled "Snap Apple Night, or All Hallow Eve."
  3. ^ Dictionary of Newfoundland English, George Morley Story, W. J. Kirwin, John David Allison, p500, ISBN 0-8020-6819-7
  4. ^ a b "5 Halloween games to play at home this week". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  5. ^ Halloween, Silver RavenWolf, p77, ISBN 1-56718-719-6. Retrieved 21 October 2008.
  6. ^ "Collectanea de Rebis Hibernicis".
  7. ^ "What is bobbing for apples?",
  8. ^ Christie, Agatha. Hallowe'en Party