Games played at Halloween in Anglo-Saxon countries recollect Celtic divinatory practices.
In Wales, the traditional meal of stwmp naw rhyw is a ‘Mash of Nine Sorts’: potatoes, carrots, turnips, peas, parsnips, leeks, salt, pepper and fresh milk. A ring is hidden in the mash and whoever finds it will be the first to get married.
Apple bobbing is a game in which players try to catch hold of an apple with their teeth as it floats in a bowl of water. This game originated from the festival of the Roman goddess Pomona. The Celts associated the apple tree with life hereafter. In the past, the winner of the game was promised marital bliss. Today, in the British Isles, it is a game which children play on the evening of 31 October.
In former times, to see the face of their future sweetheart in a dream, Scottish girls had to devour a salted herring in three mouthfuls, while Irish girls would place the first and last spoonful of colcannon (mashed potato, cabbage, onions and butter) with seven ivy leaves under their pillow.
The saying trick or treat’ called out by children today dates back to the beginning of the Christian era. At that time, people placed food on their doorstep to appease the suffering souls of the deceased and to ensure they continued on their way. The custom of wearing fancy dress allegedly originates from an Irish belief that people should hide their faces and turn their clothes inside out before venturing outside in the evening, the time when spirits walked the Earth.