How would Hunters celebrate Halloween? Well, in truth, they probably wouldn't have. When a scourge of monsters plagues the land, and you make your living hunting them down, you don't stop for pleasantries or parties.
But those in the region who did celebrate Halloween in 1895, the year in which Hunt is set, would have participated in a number of traditions you might not be familiar with.
Many Halloween traditions of the time would have come from Irish immigrants, of which there were many in New Orleans. (Did you know the first American St. Patrick's Day is said to have been held in New Orleans in 1809?)
The holiday the Irish brought with them to the United States was called Samhain which, as one blogger jokes, is “Gaelic for 'dead people, please don't wreck our harvest or kill our sheep.'" A place was traditionally set at table for loved ones who had passed away, masks were used to fool mischievous spirits, and bonfires and candles were centerpieces of the event.
The Irish made the holiday more popular in the US, and over the years traditions began to morph and evolve as they collided with the fall traditions of other cultures imported by immigrants to the United States.
One popular Halloween game in the 1890s involved hanging a stick from the ceiling with a lit candle tied to one end and an apple tied to the other. The stick would then be spun around, and partygoers would try to catch the apple with their teeth, reported an October 30, 1892 issue of The New York Times. (Don't try this at home, kids!) Bobbing for apples was also popular, as was a fortune telling game where you put nuts in a fire to determine whether your sweetheart was faithful.
The legend of the headless horseman, a ghost on horseback sometimes depicted as having a jack-o-lantern for a head, has been a staple of European folklore since the—best guess—the middle ages, and would have been known to many in 1895. The short story that popularized the tale in the United States—“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving—had been publishing in 1820, and later a serialized version by Mayne Reid published between 1865 and 1866 continued the spread of the popular legend.
But he's nothing in comparison to our own pumpkin-headed monster. And if you don't know what we're referring to, go play a few rounds of Hunt, and you'll meet him soon enough…
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