Apples have been used as symbols for eons. In Latin, the words for “apple” (målum) and for “evil” (malum) are nearly identical. That may be why the apple became interpreted as the Bible’s “hidden fruit.” Popular Christian tradition claims that Adam and Eve ate an apple from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. In the Old Testament, the apple represented the fall of mankind, whereas it is an emblem of redemption from that fall in the New Testament. As a result, the apple has become a symbol for knowledge, immortality, temptation, and sin. Celtic symbolism of the apple includes wholeness, purity, goodwill, and fertility.
The larynx in the human throat has been called the “Adam’s Apple” from a folk tale that claimed the bulge was caused by the forbidden fruit sticking in the throat of Adam. In Norse mythology, apple trees were the symbol of rebirth and beauty, and the apple tree was sacred. During the 19th century, a fresh and polished apple became the traditional children’s gift for a teacher in Denmark, Sweden, and the United States. And as we know, apples feature frequently in fairy tales with a well-known example in “Snow White” in which a poisonous apple puts Snow White to sleep.
Apples appear in a number of superstitions. According to Irish folklore, it is suggested that on Halloween, you should peel an apple at midnight and then throw the whole peel over your left shoulder. The shape of the peel when it lands will be the first initial of your future husband or wife. A boat builder’s superstition claims that it is unlucky to build a boat out of wood from an apple tree because apple wood was previously used to manufacture coffins.
Another custom came from twisting off an apple stem. With each turn of the stem, starting with the letter A, the next letter was said until the stem broke; the name of your future beau was supposed to start with that letter. In the Scottish and Irish tradition of bobbing for apples, it is said that the first person to grab an apple with their teeth will be the first to marry.
Many iconic phrases include the apple. Here are some that use an apple at their core:
- “You’re the apple of my eye.”
- “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.”
- “It’s as American as motherhood and apple pie.”
- “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
- “The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.”
- “Apple pie without the cheese is like a hug without the squeeze.”
- “Don’t upset the apple cart.”
- “It’s as easy as apple pie.”
New York is called the “Big Apple,” a term coined by touring jazz musicians and horse racers in the 1920s who used the slang expression “apple,” meaning a town or city. Therefore, to play New York City was to play the big time. And though there is some discussion about who said this quote originally, here is a hopeful way to look at life: “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant an apple tree today.”
Happy Halloween from all of us at Shelburne Orchards as you bob for apples!