Many of us, if not all, now how Halloween got its name, that is, a shortened version of All Hallow’s Eve. Both the old version and the new version are celebrations honoring the spirits of the dead. You might be asking yourself, what Halloween has to do with Valentine’s Day and why that vintage greeting card has a cupid on it. Those are good questions. It’s important to remember that Halloween, even the new off-shoot from the ancient ritual of Samhain, is hundreds of years old. Many traditions have been lost while new ones have been adopted. The current way that we celebrate this creepy holiday, i.e., with blood and gore, and lights and ghost-filled houses and mazes, is only the newest version, and it’s already starting to change again.
Many of the games associated with Halloween today were used to get single men and women together. Take, for example, the game of biting into an apple suspended from the ceiling, called Snap Apple, where the goal is to be the first team to take a bite from the apple. Doing so, supposedly, meant you were the next to be married, just like the bouquet and garter belt at a wedding. Another game consisted of cutting the peel from an apple in one long strip and throwing it over your shoulder. The peel was said to curl into the first initial of your future wife or husband. Still another game involved eating slices of an apple in front of a mirror at midnight on Halloween to summon the image of your “soul mate”, whom would, then, ask for the last slice.
Nuts, too, played a role in the prediction of one’s love life. Some traditions say to circle a walnut tree three times on a moonlit Halloween night, (we all know how often those happen). Doing so would reveal one’s future spouse picking walnuts. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire may not belong, exclusively, to Christmas. The tradition says that the couple should throw a pair of chestnuts into a hot fire. If the nuts kept close to each other, it meant that the relationship would be a happy one. If the nuts popped and cracked, the relationship would have some troubles. One last nut tradition had men and women to place candles into the shell of a walnut and “sail” it across a tub. If two walnuts sailed next to each other, they were a match. The couple whose “boats” made it to the other side first would be the next to marry.
Some say mirrors show the reflection of one’s soul. Old traditions say that mirrors were, sometimes, used to divine one’s “soul mate”, like the apple slice ritual I mentioned already. Another tradition says to hold up a hand mirror and walk backward in moonlight or down a flight of stairs while holding a candle. If the ritual and incantation were done correctly, the image of a future spouse would appear in the mirror.
As you can see, many of these traditions center around the apple, which is, in and of itself, a symbol of virility and love, in some cultures, while the nut is a symbol of fertility. Aside from that, the ancient Roman god, Pomona, was the goddess of fruit trees and nut trees. She was the goddess of abundance. It seems apt considering that Halloween is a celebration of a fruitful harvest. Throw in some candy and some kinky outfits, and you really can’t tell the difference between the two holidays.