The Long Lost Matchmaking Rituals of Halloween

When it comes to holidays about true love, one typically thinks about Valentine’s Day, but once upon a time, it was Halloween. Yes, Halloween, the time of year we typically associate with more macabre imagery than that of cupid, used to have a rather romantic element, Halloween matchmaking.

Some of the earliest noted methods of Halloween matchmaking are from 18th century Ireland where the host would hide a ring (among other trinkets) in a dish of Colcannon, made up of mashed potatoes and cabbage, and the one to find the ring would soon be married. Others traditions seemed to become more prevalent in the late 19th century and early 20th century as they were illustrated, some even including instructions, on various postcards.

There were many methods for one to find their true love, the most common of which involved the one seeking their true love to gaze into a mirror with a candle, and supposedly their true love would appear just over their shoulder. Some instructions require those seeking love to do this at midnight. So common was this version that it was described as a party activity in Agatha Christie’s 1969 novel, Hallowe’en Party, in addition to a slew of postcards.

Inside a pumpkin a woman holds a mirror and candle. Text below reads "Halloween Don'ts! Don't be afraid, for on Halloween If you take a lighted candle and a mirror clean At the stroke of twelve, look in and there's seen the face of your lover that I ween."

A witch holds a mirror and a candle. A grandfather clock stands with 12 on its face. Text reads "Now to see your lover tried and true I advise you to do: Take a mirror nw and bright in your left hand at Twelve to night and a lighted candle in your right. Halloween wishes."

Collage of four postcards. One features a woman in a red dress holding a candle, the mirror behind her has a man in a tux. Text reads "May your Halloween wish come true." Another postcard features a woman in Victorian attire holding a candle and a mirror, two ghost like figures are seen on the opposite side of the card. Text near the top reads "Halloween greetings." Another postcard features a woman in a yellow Victorian dress holding a candle and mirror, with Jack O'Lanterns behind her, text along the bottom reads "Halloween." Another postcard features a woman in a white dress with large pink sash, standing in front of a large mirror holding a candle, and a man appears over her shoulder. Text reads "On Halloween look in the glass, your future husband's face will pass."

A postcard features a couple kissing in front of a mirror, a small candle is held by the woman. A witch sits atop a text box which reads "Listen, Little One! On Halloween take a candle and look intoa mirror, then over your soulder you'll see your future hubby's fae - and feel it too - if he knows his cue. In the excitment the candle goes out, and - of course this affair must be prearranged to be suessful for the Witches are busy and can't tend to everybody. O.U. Kid."

A woman in a red Victorian dress holds a candle as she gazes into the mirror. A man hands behind her. A text box reads "In the hour of midnight Halloween, Your future husband may be seen. Before a mirror you must stand, With lighted candle in your hand; Then over your shoulder will appear The face of the one to you most dear. N.B. - In order to work this trick right, you should first notify the victim, so he will be on hand; then the trick cannot fail."

A woman wearing a purple dress with green bows and little black bats on it holds a candle in front of a mirror. In the mirror is a funny pumpkin face, behind her a man holds a pumpkin on a stick. Text reads "Halloween. If you are too Anxious on Halloween to peep in the mirror before midnight instead of the face of your lover you see, a big pumpkin head tats fancy free."

College of four postcards. One features a girl in a white nightgown holding a candle, she looks into a mirror that has a little boy in it. Text reads "Halloween Joys. Oh may I see by candle's gleam, my sweetheart's face on Halloween." Another postcard features a little girl in blue dress with white apron holding a candle and mirror, behind her is a little boy in a red outfit. Text reads "May Halloween bring you a joy like this!" Another postcard features a little girl holding a candle and mirror as little Jack O'Lantern headed persons stand near her, text reads "Halloween greetings." Another postcard features a little girl holding a candle and mirror, as a man with a Jack O'Lantern head walks toward her. Text reads "Halloween."

A gentleman in a tux holds a candle and mirror, a ghostly figure stands behind him. Text below reads "There is a maid for every man And every man be free At thsi last hour of Halloween By him to find the 'She' Halloween Greetings."

Inside a pumpkin is a woman in a green dress with a mirror and candle, text next to her reads "Accept best Halloween wishes When the candle's flame is bright May the face of your future husband Look over your shoulder tonight."

A woman in a red and white outfit holds a Jack O'lantern with a candle at the top in front of a mirror. A man stands next to her and appears in the mirror next to her. Text reads "Halloween Precautions If at midnight with a pumpkin light You steal to your room unseen In the mirror appears the face, Of your lover true, on Halloween."

Collage of three postcards. The far left features a Victorian dressed couple in a mirror, to the left of the mirror is a lit candle, text next to it reads "Halloween Joys Be Yours." The middle postcard features a woman in a blue dress holding a mirror atop a Jack O'Lantern. An owl sits atop the mirror, and in the mirror is a man's face. Text at the bottom reads "Halloween If in the mirror your lover is seen You'll surely be happy on Halloween." The far right postcard features a woman looking in a mirror that is in a pumpkin, she holds a candle. Text reads "Wishing You a Lucky Halloween."

A woman in a white dress with blue bow stands in front of a mirror holding a candle, a man in a tux appears next to her in the mirror. Text reads "I pray you bright flame Now show to me Who my future husband may be."

A variation on the mirror and candle was described in the October 31, 1914 issue of the Philadelphia paper, the Evening Ledger, in which a person would walk backward in the bright moonlight looking into a mirror and recite the following:

Round and round, O stars so fair!
Ye Travel and search out everywhere;
I pray you, sweet stars, now show me
This night who my future husband (or wife) will be!

Newspaper clipping features an image of a woman holding a hand mirror. Text reads "Another delightful game is played with a mirror. The moon should be shining brightly, and the guest must walk several paces backward in the moonlight, holding a looking glass in one hand, and gazing all the time into the looking glass. If the following verse is repeated, the face of the guest's future husband or wife, as the case may be, will appear in the glass: Round and round, O stars of fair! Ye travel and search out everywhere; I pray you, sweet stars, now show me This night who my future husband (or wife) will be!"

The same article described a rather dangerous sounding game where half of a pint of brandy is poured into a dish, set flame on fire, then candied fruits and sugared almonds are tossed in, guests then attempted to grab as many of the treats as possible from the flames, the one with the most was said to meet their future spouse within a year!

Nuts seemed to an oddly key role in Halloween matchmaking. Another nut-fueled way to find true love or a speedy wedding, was to go hunting for chestnuts in a group, and the first to find one with a burr would be the first to marry.  In Scotland women were told to take hazelnuts (or filberts as we Oregonians call ’em) and name each one a possible match before tossing it into the fire. The nut that burned to ash, as opposed to “popping or exploding,” was her true love. Those wanting a less public or safer way to find their true love, could make a sweet treat of walnuts, hazelnuts, and nutmeg before going to sleep Halloween night, and they would dream of their future spouse.

We have all probably bobbed for apples at a Halloween party at one time or another, but apples also played a role in Halloween matchmaking as well. In the game Snap Apple or The Adam & Eve Game, which was similar to bobbing for apples in that one must use only their teeth to secure the apple, an apple was hung from the ceiling by string or ribbon, if you were wanting to be fancy, and the first to bite in would be the first to marry.

A boy and girl bite into the same apple inside a pumpkin. Text at the top reads "Halloween."

Collage of four postcards. One features a woman in a green Victorian dress, her hands tied behind her back as she attempts to bite into an apple on a string. Text reads "Halloween Greetings." Another postcard features a gentleman in a tux kissing the cheek of a woman as an apple swings pas them. Text reads "Halloween Greetings." Another postcard features a woman in a red Victorian dress, attempting to bite an apple on a string, a wood border around the card. Text reads "Halloween Joys be Thine." The far right postcard features a woman in a simple Edwardian outfit attempting to bite into an apple on a string, her hands behind her back, text reads "A Halloween Greeting From" with room for the sender to write their name.

A couple in 1770s attire, the woman holds an apple on a string while a man attempts to bite into it. Text reads "A Jolly Halloween."

Collage of four postcards. One features a little girl in a green dress, as a little boy in a brown suit who attempts to bite into an apple on a string with his hands behind is back, text reads "Halloween Pastimes." Another postcard features a little girl in blue outfit with big blue bow attempting to bite into an apple. Text reads "Wishing you much joy at Halloween." Another postcard features a woman in a green dress attempting to bite into an apple on a string as several Jack O'Lanterns look on, text at the bottom reads "Halloween." Another postcard features a little girl in an orange dress with white apron, her hands behind her back, and she is blindfolded. She attempts to bite into an apple on a string. Text reads "May your Halloween be merry. Hit or miss my fortune's in this."

Inside the circle of a diamond ring is a woman attempting to bite into an apple shaped like a heart. Text at the bottom reads "Halloween Greeting"

Collage of three postcards. One features a little boy in a blue sailor outfit and a little girl in a pink dress biting for the same apple as a black cat and Jack O'Lantern look on. Text reads "A Happy Halloween." Another postcard features a little boy trying to bite an apple on a string, text reads "Halloween." The final postcard features a little boy trying to bite an apple on a string, text reads "Greetings for Halloween. Here's wishing yo lots of fun."

A couple bites into the same hanging apple. Text at the bottom reads "The Adam & Eve Game Halloween Greetings."

Another apple centered way to find a match on Halloween was to peel and apple and toss the peels over the shoulder, the peels were suppose to spell the initials of one’s future spouse. Like the candle and mirror method, some instructions said it must be done at midnight on Halloween.

A woman's face appears in a hand mirror, she holds an apple and apple peel. A small witch peeks out from the upper left, a cauldron sits in the lower right, with text reading "Good Luck" on it. Text along the top of the postcard reads "Halloween." Text at the bottom of the postcard reads "On Halloween This good game will spell For you your true love's name."

Postcard of a woman holding an apple in one hand, and peelings from the apple in another. A man appears behind her. A small text box reads "Of your future hubby's name you wish to know; Over your left shoulder an apple peel throw. It will wriggle and coil, and you will see, The first initial of who it will be. For the witches plot, and the hexes scheme, On the mystic night of Halloween. N.B. - This trick positively cannot fail. Te peeling falls in such peculiar shapes, any bright girl can make out whatever initial she chooses."

Collage of four postcards. One features a woman in a green dress, she holds a partially peeled apple in one hand, and tosses peelings over her shoulder with the other. Bats and Jack O'Lanterns edge the frame, and text reads "Halloween Greetings." Another postcard features a woman in a pink dress who has a partially peeled apple in one hand, and peelings being tossed over her shoulder with the other. Peelings spell out "Halloween." Another features a couple in Victorian dress, apple peelings on the floor create the letter "S" and script along the bottom reads "Your Halloween Fortune." Another postcard features a woman in a purple flowing dress tossing apple peelings over her shoulder, text at the bottom reads "Halloween."

Postcard of a woman wearing a yellow and blue dress with black cat heads on it. A clock hangs behind her with 12 on it. In her hands she holds an apple and knife with one, peelings in the other she is abut to toss over her shoulder. Text at the top reads "Halloween" and text at the bottom reads "A Twelve O'clock on Halloween Thrown an Apple peel my Sweet Dame And the Letter which is plainly seen Is the Initial of your Marriage Name."

Looking for love? Maybe give one of these a try this Halloween night! There’s even a full moon this year if you want to try the one that involves a walk in the moonlight! Who knows what a mirror, apple, or handful of nuts may reveal! Even if you don’t find love, you know you kept an often looked over tradition of Halloween alive!

Sources
Chokshi, Niraji. “Boo? Halloween used to Be About Finding True Love.” New York Times, 27 October 2016. Accessed 19 October 2020.
Halloween.” History. 18 November 2009. Accessed 19 October 2020.
Images found via eBay, Pinterest, and more, however collages made by me.

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