Most of us think of Halloween as a dressing up fest with its roots in witchcraft. And somewhere along the line, pumpkins, inexplicably, came into the mix.
But surprisingly, time was when there was a certain romance about the October festival, with Halloween considered the best night of the year to find a future spouse.
Just a few hundred years ago in Ireland, single ladies would hide a ring inside a bowl of mashed potatoes, believing that it would attract a hungry bachelor to their kitchen doors, where said bachelor would gobble up the dish (presumably without the ring inside it) and then drop to his knees to propose marriage. That must have been some mashing technique.
Meanwhile in Scotland, fair maidens would seek out a selection of hazelnuts, giving each the name of any local gent they wouldn’t turn down a proposal from. They would then throw the nuts in the fire (waste of good nuts), and watch carefully to see which nuts burned to ashes rather than popping open. The burned-out nut was thought to represent the best suitor. Which raises the question of what happened if all the nuts turned to ash – gasp!
Other legends have seen young women brew potions of walnuts and nutmeg before bed, in the hope their future husband would materialise in dream form. And another tells that young women would toss apple peels over their shoulders in the hope of finding a future soulmate’s initials among the fruity debris.