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.
A variation on the mirror and candle was described in the October 31, 1914 issue of the Philadelphia paper, theEvening 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!
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.
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.
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!