Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

31 October 2015

Nut-Crack Night

Hot on the heels of Crack-Nut Sunday comes Nut-Crack Night! On 31 October, Hallowe’en, nuts are tossed into a fire to determine which couples should marry.

Fireside scene
From Sir Walter Scott, Marmion - Introduction to Canto VI (1887) British Library 11647.f.22 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

According to one British tradition, unmarried men and women each have a nut named after them.  Two nuts are then put into the fire: if they burn quietly together, the courtship will be smooth; if they jump apart, the wooing will be rocky.  Another tradition has young women testing their sweetheart's fidelity by placing named nuts on the bars of the fire grate.  If a nut cracks or jumps, the lover will prove unfaithful; if it burns or blazes, he has a true regard for the girl making the trial.

Two hazel-nuts I threw into the flame,
And to each nut I gave a sweet-heart's name.
This with the loudest bounce me sore amaz'd,
That in a flame of brightest colour blaz'd.
As blaz'd the nut, so may thy passion grow,
For 'twas thy nut that did so brightly glow.

From John Gay, ‘Thursday; Or, The Spell’ from The Shepherd's Week (1742)


An appealing alternative to Hallowe’en trick or treat and ghosts and ghouls?

  Ghost scaring children at Halloween
From Charles Maurice Davies, Love Lyrics and Valentine Verses, for young and old (1875) British Library 11652.bb.42 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
William Hone, The Every-day Book (1825)
British Newspaper Archive



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