An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but they have still had bad publicity as the "forbidden fruit" that Eve tasted in the Garden of Eden, thereby making life difficult for all of us. Yet nowhere in the biblical story of Adam and Eve is an apple mentioned. It is simply called "the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden" (Genesis 3:3). OK, it COULD have been an apple, but it might just as well have been an apricot, a mango, or any other sort of fruit.
Apples continued to get bad press with the famous story that scientist Sir Isaac Newton was under a tree, minding his own business, when an apple fell on his head. Just as well it provided him the inspiration for the laws of gravity, or the poor apple would never be forgiven! But while the falling apple is a good story, it probably never happened. The story was first published in an essay by Voltaire, long after Newton's death. Before that, Newton's niece, Catherine Conduitt, was the only person who ever told the story. It was almost certainly an invention.
Legends, folklore, and traditions
- Since 1990, Apple Day has been held across the UK and beyond, on October 21
- Swiss folklore holds that William Tell courageously shot an apple from his son's head with his crossbow, defying a tyrannical ruler and bringing freedom to his people.
- Irish folklore claims that if an apple is peeled into one continuous ribbon and thrown behind a woman's shoulder, it will land in the shape of the future husband's initials.
- Danish folklore says that apples wither around adulterers.
- Apples are said to increase a woman's chances of conception as well as remove birthmarks when rubbed on the skin.
- In the European fairy tale Snow White, the princess is killed, or sunk into a kind of coma with the appearance of death, by choking on a poisoned apple given to her by her stepmother. Later, the princess is jostled into coughing up the piece, miraculously returning her to life.
- In Arthurian legend, the mythical isle of Avalon's name is believed to mean 'isle of apples'.
- In some places, bobbing for apples is a traditional Halloween activity.
- In the United States, Denmark and Sweden, an apple (polished) is a traditional gift for a teacher. This stemmed from the fact that teachers during the 16th to 18th centuries were poorly paid, so parents would compensate the teacher by providing food. As apples were a very common crop, teachers would often be given baskets of apples by students. As wages increased, the quantity of apples was toned down to a single fruit.
- The Apple Wassail is a traditional form of wassailing practiced in cider orchards of South West England during the winter. The ceremony is said to 'bless' the apple trees to produce a good crop in the forthcoming season.
- In Ancient Greece, a man throwing an apple to a woman was a proposal of marriage. Catching it meant she accepted.