Hallow Even is the vigil of All Saints' Day, which is on the first of November. Christian history presents a curious divergence of custom in regard to this Church festival; for whilst in Catholic countries the
faithful turn their steps to the churchyard and place flowers on the graves of the departed, the Protestant section, and that portion of the community known as worldly people, celebrate the occasion by making merry and using various means to peer into the future. All Saints' Day being originally a day for remembering the souls of the departed, it is confessedly difficult to trace any connection between a pious instruction on the part of the Church, and the old (and modern) practice of unmarried women, who use this day--or eve--to divine their matrimonial bliss, or misery. But as with so many Church festivals the jollity and the seriousness often went together, or the directly religious act preceded the merry-making; and in the course of time the religious element grew weaker, whilst the secular element retained more or less its vitality. Anyhow in the North of England the sanctity of Hallow Even became transmogrified into "Nut Crack Night." Girls anxious, or, shall I say, curious, to know the name of their husbands, would place two nuts in the fire side by side, giving them names. If the fire caused the nuts to burst and fly apart, the sign was distinctly bad; if they burned together, the omen was decidedly good. Gay in his Spell thus refers to the custom :-
"Two hazel nuts I threw into the flame,
And to each nut I gave a sweetheart'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!"
"In marriage ceremonies among the Romans the bridegroom threw nuts about the room for the boys
to scramble. The epithalamiums of the classics confirm this, and Horace speaks of the use of nuts in sports. They were not excluded from the catalogue of superstitions under Papal Rome. Thus on the 10th of August in the Romish ancient Calendar I find it observed that some religious use was made of them, and that they were in great estimation: Nuces in pretio et religiosae."