12. Finding the love of your life was turned into a game, with bobbing for apples a fun way to find ‘the one’
There was no Tinder in Medieval times. Instead, people had to find other ways of getting a date – and, ideally, a husband or wife. But, just like today, peasants liked to have fun while matchmaking and dating, and would often make a game of it. One of the most popular ways of finding ‘the one’, was bobbing for apples. As the few existing records documenting everyday life for the Medieval peasantry show, this was relatively common right across Europe and eventually grew into a normal game rather than just a mating ritual.
The game was simple enough: a bunch of apples leftover from the harvest were collected. Each one was given the name of a single man from the village. The apples were then placed in a bucket and the village maidens then tried to take the apples out using just their mouths. Of course, the girls would always try and grab the apple belonging to the boy or man they fancied the most. They would only get three chances, however. If she managed to get the apple out on the first try, then tradition held that they were meant to be together forever. If she needed two attempts, they would wed but have a troubled marriage. If she needed three tries, then the union was deemed to be doomed from the start.
Away from such quaint English traditions, courtship among peasant societies was pretty much the same across Europe. A young man and woman would court publicly, usually meeting at markets, at church or in the fields whilst working. According to ballads from the time, the man would usually try and woo his intended with gifts, albeit modest ones given that they were peasants. Gifts of food or clothes were usually enough for a man to get his woman and make her his wife.