Would you ever dive face-first, mouth agape, into a pool of your friends’ saliva? No, neither would I. Which is probably why in the last few decades, bobbing for apples has mostly been relegated to the ranks of cute Halloween games of yore, where it belongs, because it is gross. And yet, people still do it, despite it being a terrible idea.
Today, the ubiquitously irritating Facebook gaming app, FarmVille, released news that they would soon be adding it as a quest. But before FarmVille’s estimated 32 million daily (and 60 million monthly) users (or anyone else, for that matter) get any funny ideas about adding this particular activity to their upcoming Halloween party, let’s look at why bobbing for apples is altogether ooky.
The game, which used to be used as a predictor of marriage during early harvest festivals, was popular at the time. But that was, of course, before germ theory came along to spoil our party planning. It’s usually played by floating apples in a tub of water, then tying participants’ hands behind their backs and letting them try to grab the floating apples with their teeth. Fun, right?
The trouble with this age-old game, however, is that everyone is essentially back-washing into the water, spreading any and all diseases that they may have at the time. Which, at the peak of cold and flu season, is the last thing anyone wants.
Another trouble with apple-bobbing is the biting. As players gnash their teeth, trying to grab an apple out of the water, it’s entirely possibly that they may bite another kid. I wouldn’t believe it if it hadn’t actually happened at a function I’d attended as a young person. A kid bit another kid. And then there was blood in the water. Which brings even more disease.
And finally, there’s the matter of foodborne illness. Washing the apples seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t even so much as polish the fruit before dropping it into the water. Yuck.
Apple bobbing isn’t banned in the United States (because this is America, darn it)–but it has been outlawed from large-scale festivals abroad, and is usually frowned upon by schools.
Bobbing for apples seems like a great idea, because it puts apples, a healthy treat, front-and-center during an otherwise junk food laden time of year. However, the actual act of the bobbing is where the game goes from “encouraging healthy behavior” to “swapping diseases like Pokemon cards.”
If you’re looking for a game for kids (or even adults) that encourages nutritious snacking (without turning you into the lady down the street who gives walnuts to trick-or-treaters), try “dry bobbing”–where one person stands on a chair and holds pieces of fruit pierced by a string and folks try to eat them. Or, skip the games altogether and go apple-picking. Or really, do anything other than bobbing for apples, because the last thing you want to do is make yourself more susceptible to the flu.