Halloween Reads

Happy Halloween!

I suppose I should get right to the news reads, but instead, I thought I’d make some use of the day to bring us up to speed on the Halloween spirit!  Halloween’s roots were in Samhain which was an ancient Celtic holiday!  Like nearly every other holiday, it was co-opted as the Romans moved to conquer as much as they could and romanize the world with their culture and religions.

Samhain was considered a magical holiday, and there are many stories about what the Celtics practiced and believed during this festival. Some say the spirits that were unleashed were those that had died in that year, and offerings of food and drink were left to aid the spirits, or to ward them away. Other versions say the Celts dressed up in outlandish costumes and roamed the neighborhoods making noise to scare the spirits away. Many thought they could predict the future and communicate with spirits as well during this time. Some think the heavily structured life of the Pagan Celtics was abandoned during Samhain, and people did unusual things, such as moving horses to different fields, moving gates and fences, women dressing as men, and vice versa, and other trickeries now associated with Halloween. Another belief is that the Celtics honoured, celebrated, and feasted the dead during Samhain. A sacred, central bonfire was always lit to honor the Pagan gods, and some accounts say that individual home fires were extinguished during Samhain, either to make their homes unattractive to roving spirits, or for their home fires to be lit following the festival from the sacred bonfire. Fortunes were told, and marked stones thrown into the fire. If a person’s stone was not found after the bonfire went out, it was believed that person would die during the next year. Some Celts wore costumes of animal skulls and skins during Samhain. Faeries were believed to roam the land during Samhain, dressed as beggars asking for food door to door. Those that gave food to the faeries were rewarded, while those that did not were punished by the faeries. This is reported to be the first origin of the modern “trick or treat” practice.

Many of the costumes we think of today actually originated in festivals celebrated during medieval times.

The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages, and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling,” when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy. Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of “puling [whimpering, whining], like a beggar at Hallowmas.” 

Yet there is no evidence that souling was ever practiced in America, and trick-or-treating may have developed in America independent of any Irish or British antecedent. There is little primary Halloween history documentation of masking or costuming on Halloween — in Ireland, the UK, or America — before 1900. The earliest known reference to ritual begging on Halloween in English speaking North America occurs in 1911, when a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario, near the border of upstate New York, reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go street guising (see below) on Halloween between 6 and 7 p.m., visiting shops and neighbors to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs. Another isolated reference appears, place unknown, in 1915, with a third reference in Chicago in 1920. The thousands of Halloween postcards produced between the turn of the 20th century and the 1920s commonly show children but do not depict trick-or-treating. Ruth Edna Kelley, in her 1919 history of the holiday, The Book of Hallowe’en, makes no mention of such a custom in the chapter “Hallowe’en in America.” It does not seem to have become a widespread practice until the 1930s, with the earliest known uses in print of the term “trick or treat” appearing in 1934, and the first use in a national publication occurring in 1939. Thus, although a quarter million Scots-Irish immigrated to America between 1717 and 1770, the Irish Potato Famine brought almost a million immigrants in 1845–1849, and British and Irish immigration to America peaked in the 1880s, ritualized begging on Halloween was virtually unknown in America until generations later.

Treats:

Thomas Sargent, Nobel Prize winner in economics is mad at the WSJ for trying to characterize him as a non-Keynesian after he won the award!

Professor Sargent described himself as a scientist, a “numbers guy” who is “just seeking the truth” as any good researcher does.

“If you go to seminars with guys who are actually doing the work and are trying to figure things out, it’s not ideological,” he said. “Half the people in the room may be Democrats and half may be Republicans. It just doesn’t matter.”

The “non-Keynesian” label irks him particularly. “That’s just off base,” he said. “Keynes was a very good economist. He was brilliant. He had wonderful insights. His work has inspired me many times.”

Professor Sargent’s own writings are sprinkled with pithy quotations from Keynes. In January 1986, the professor wrote a Wall Street Journal article, “An Open Letter to the Brazilian Finance Minister,” analyzing that nation’s fiscal crisis. In form and substance, it was explicitly modeled on a very similar letter written by Keynes to the French finance minister 60 years earlier. One point of this exercise, he said, “was to get people to actually read Keynes.”

Still, early in Professor Sargent’s career, he was known as one of the founders of the “rational expectations” school, which has sometimes been thought to be un-Keynesian. He says it actually “tied down an important loose end in the kinds of theories Keynes was building.” Keynes, he said, believed that expectations were all-important in determining economic activity, but didn’t have the mathematical tools needed to nail down all his concepts.

Today, Professor Sargent says that in some ways he actually is a Keynesian, but he qualified that claim, too. “I’m happy to say I am a Harrison-Kreps-Keynesian,” he said, citing work by two scholars at Stanford, J. Michael Harrison and David M. Kreps. They developed a theory of speculative investor behavior and stock-bubble formation that subtly modifies rational expectations “in a beautiful way” and “captures Keynes’s argument, makes it rigorous, and pushes it further,” he said.

Fundamentally, he said, “What I really don’t like is oversimplification.” He tries to think things through, he said, and avoid having “one slogan fighting another.”

Recipe for Best Pumpkin Cookies

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Penuche Glaze

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2-2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Have ready some ungreased baking sheets.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy.
Blend in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract.
In separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
Mix flour mixture into butter-sugar mixture.
Drop tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until golden around the edges.
Remove warm cookies and transfer to racks.
Let cool completely for a least one half hour, then frost with glaze.

For Glaze:.
In a medium saucepan, heat butter and brown sugar over medium heat until bubbly. Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute or until slightly thickened. Beat in the milk. Blend in confectioner’s sugar until the glaze is smooth and spreadable. Using a silicone basting brush, which I love and use religiously now, or a butter knife to spread glaze on cookies is the best tip. Please note; this glaze will harden fairly quickly. I suggest that you keep the saucepan over the stove on the lowest heat possible to prevent it from hardening.

Tricks:

 Herman Cain went on TV Sunday saying that Planned Parenthood should be called “Planned Genocide’ because their goal Is To ‘Kill Black Babies’.  He’s now under scrutiny for sexual harassment charges in past.  Can we just say the man hates women and get it over with?

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is standing by his assertion that reproductive health care provider Planned Parenthood is carrying out the “planned genocide” of African Americans.

In a March speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Cain said the organization’s mission was to “help kill black babies before they came into the world.”

On Sunday, CBS host Bob Schieffer asked the candidate if he still believed that statement.

“Yes,” Cain replied. “I still stand by that.”

“Do you have any proof that was the objective of Planned Parenthood?” Schieffer wondered.

“If people go back and look at this history and look at [Planned Parenthood founder] Margaret Sanger’s own words, that’s exactly where that came from,” Cain insisted. “Look at where most of them were built. Seventy-five percent were built in the black community and Margaret Sanger’s own words — she didn’t use the word genocide. She did talk about decreasing the number of poor blacks in this country by preventing black babies from being born.”

Anti-abortion activists often misquote Sanger as saying, “[W]e want to exterminate the Negro population.”

But in full context, the quote has the opposite meaning. In a 1939 letter to pro-birth control advocate Clarence J. Gamble, Sanger argued that black leaders should be involved in the effort to deliver birth control to the black community.

“We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs,” she wrote

Hope you have a fun day!  What’s on your reading and blogging list?