Halloween – it’s many people’s favorite holiday. And one of the most fun activities that kids like to do, besides playing trick or treat, is apple bobbing. But is this fun game actually safe?
An Apple A Day…
During the Fall, one of the most delightful things that one can do is picking apples from orchards. There’s just so many great things you can do with this delicious fruit. Some make cider, others make pies. Then there are those who like to do some good ol’ apple bobbing…
Beginning Of The Bobbers
Long before Halloween was even a thought in the world, people enjoyed bobbing for apples. The tradition can be traced back to the Roman invasion of Britain. The Romans actually combined some of their own customs with those of the Celtics. One annual celebration would see a group of young single people bob for apples. The first person to successfully snatch one for themselves would be the next in line for marriage. But the activity evolved over time…
A String Of Bad Decisions
Other variations of apple bobbing have developed over time. The most popular alternative to the game is as follows – tying apples to a bunch of loose strings and trying to bite them off before they fall to the ground. Both of these main styles of the game were first documented in Charles Vallancey’s 18th Century book Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis. But most people will be familiar with the following technique. When you think of apple bobbing, you think of this…
The most common form of the game is as follows: fill a tub with water and drop a bag of apples into it. Then, get a bunch of people to take turns as they dunk their heads into the tub. There are not many rules to the game – just try to extract as many apples as possible. Also, you’re not allowed to use your hands. The person who gets the most is the winner. It sounds simple, right?
Trick Or Treat?
But no, this is a game that requires skill and a lack of fear. In more recent times though, apple bobbing has become a popular game to play on the spookiest night of the year, Halloween. Some of the other activities that are often associated with “Hallow’s Eve” also include trick or treat, wearing scary costumes and carving pumpkins. But at many children’s Halloween parties, expect to see a bunch of kids surrounding a tub of water and dunking their heads for some fruity treats.
Historically, there were some Christian communities who would abstain from eating meat on All Hallow’s Eve. As a result, families would place a strong emphasis on vegetarian options, such as potato pancakes, soul cakes and most traditionally, apples. This may explain why the practice of apple bobbing transferred into Halloween culture. But over time, different communities have put their own spin on the fun activity. There are some variations in the way that people apple bob on Halloween…
In fact, the nature of apple bobbing has come full circle. After being transformed into a Halloween-oriented tradition, it’s nowadays a pastime associated purely with the Fall, in general. And there are many reasons why this activity has become popular for more than just one day of the year. This is a time of the year prime for picking apples. Literally, the leaves are falling from the trees and kids want to enjoy the days before the cold of winter finally arrives.
One example of the tradition involves taking a fork, putting it in your mouth and trying to drive it into an apple. Also, there used to be a particularly dangerous game that was in common practice. Basically, a stick would be hung over the participants’ heads. On one end of the stick, a candle was lit. On the other end, an apple would hang. Then someone would spin the stick around as the players took turns trying to catch the apple.
The Name Of The Game
The practice of apple bobbing has become so synonymous with Halloween that in some parts of the world, it is what the spooky day is best known for. In Newfoundland and Labrador, in the north east of Canada, Halloween is actually referred to as “Snap Apple Night.” This may be due to the fact that in many parts of Ireland, apple bobbing is known as Snap Apple. In Scotland, it is called “dooking,” and in parts of northern England, “apple ducking.”
However, not everyone’s a fan of the Halloween game. And there are many who believe that having a group of people sinking their teeth into the same apples is a recipe for spreading of germs and even diseases. But just how dangerous is apple bobbing? Is it something to actually be seriously cautious about? As a matter of fact – yes. We have put together a fair amount of evidence to prove that this age-old game is actually pretty risky for one’s health.
The dangers of apple bobbing have found their way into classic literature. One of the most notable examples can be found in Agatha Christie’s 1969 mystery Hallowe’en Party. The story starts by telling the reader that after a character by the name of Joyce admitted to witnessing a murder, she is found to have drowned in a tub that was made for apple bobbing. If this chilling tale won’t dissuade kids from performing the risky activity, then nothing will.
Like most other foods, apples can be a hotbed for the nastiest of germs. As a result, researchers are warning apple bobbers to thoroughly rinse their fruit due to the threat of bacteria. According to FoodSafety.Gov, people who play the game should “reduce the number of bacteria that might be present on apples and other raw fruits and vegetables by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.”
The Apple Of Your Eye
Not only can apples be dangerous if they are not thoroughly rinsed, they can also harm your eyes if you get too close to them. There is always the chance of catching the stem of an apple. If it comes into contact with the surface of an eye, it can scratch it and cause all sorts of damage. Even the risk of causing blindness is not out of the realm of possibility. Also, dunking one’s head into the dirty water can cause eye infections.
The Doctor Speaks
A lot of these health concerns were raised by the ophthalmologist, Dr. Kathryn McCreery who works at Our Lady’s Hospital for sick children in Dublin, Ireland. In her words, she has seen many injuries “as a result of the child attempting to bite the apple at force when dunking their head.” Although she is “not asking people to avoid fun on this family occasion,” she believes that apple bobbing is “best avoided.” But this isn’t the only cause for concern…
Something’s In The Water
In fact, the apple isn’t the only cause for concern of one’s health when an apple bobbing party is being organized. Water can easily carry types of bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella. So we advise you to be very careful when dunking your head in these tubs of water and to avoid it at all costs if you feel under the weather. After all, this activity is most popular during the Fall and this coincides with flu season.
In light of such health concerns, many crazy methods have been taken in order to maximize the chances of safety when we bob for apples during the Fall. At an apple bobbing event in Manchester, organizers decided that it was too dangerous to carry on bobbing in the traditional way and so they provided each child with a pair of chopsticks to use instead. Also, to alleviate the risk of eye damage, many parents have given children goggles to wear during the activity.
Wait, There’s More
Before you rush to create your bobbing tub, we have a few more precautions you need to note down. We also recommend disinfecting whatever container you are planning on using to hold the water in. Then, make sure that you filter the water that you’re filling the tub with. This way you will minimize the chances of contaminated water. Also, make sure to remove those apple stalks. This will decrease the chances of participants damaging their eyes.
But don’t worry, there are other activities that you can do during Halloween and Fall season in general. Everyone loves seeing a creative design carved into a pumpkin. So why not try your hand at carving your own? You could also collect the many different colors of leaves that have fallen from your garden trees. Or, how about hanging some donuts on strings and trying to reach for them? The number of enriching Fall traditions is absolutely staggering.
However, there are still many people out there who don’t consider bobbing to be dangerous in the slightest and believe that this is just another example of the world going over the top when it comes to health and safety. Ben Richards from Southampton, United Kingdom, is one of these people. “This seems like health and safety gone mad,” he said. “I’ve done apple bobbing for years and never had any problems.” Maybe he has a point…
One Last Word
In conclusion, we believe that there are plenty of reasons to be cautious when it comes to apple bobbing. Not only can the apples be dangerous when one’s eyes come into contact with them, but the water can also be a hazard. We’re not telling you to stop this tradition that has been going for thousands of years. However, there are ways to minimize damage to the player’s health. So all we can say is this – Enjoy the Fall and bob safely!