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.
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?
Lead Curator, East India Company Records
William Hone, The Every-day Book (1825)
British Newspaper Archive