Halloween, a time for children to dress in costumes, trick or treat and eat candy, wasn’t always a joyous occasion. The holiday has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The day marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter. Legend had it that on this day the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. The Celts, who were dependent on agriculture, believed the ghosts would damage crops, and they built huge bonfires and dressed in costumes to ward off the spirits. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as a time to honor all saints. All Saints Day emerged and the night before became known as All Hallows Eve, eventually merging with remnants of Samhain and becoming Halloween.
A staple of Halloween is the jack-o-lantern, which is linked to the Irish folk tale of Stingy Jack. According to legend, Stingy Jack was a drunk and clever con man who fooled the devil into banning him from hell, but because of his sinful life he could not enter heaven. After his death, Jack roamed the world carrying a small lantern made of a turnip with a glowing ember from hell inside. Modern day jack-o-lanterns are carved out of pumpkins, not turnips.
According to the USDA, every state in the U.S. produces at least some pumpkins, but Illinois leads the nation in both pumpkin acres harvested and yield. In 2021, Illinois produced 652 million pounds of pumpkins, more than the next 5 most productive states combined.
Another staple of Halloween is candy handed out to children. One quarter of all candy sold in the United States annually is purchased for Halloween. On Saturday, October 29th at 7:00 pm, the streets of downtown Springfield will be filled with some of this candy and the sights and sounds of The Parent Place’s 5th Annual Halloween Parade. This family friendly parade includes lighted floats, musical entertainment, and costumes, in addition to candy. What a wonderful way to kick off your Halloween festivities.
More importantly, the parade supports the good work of The Parent Place. The mission of The Parent Place is to prevent child abuse and neglect by teaching positive parenting. This local non-profit agency has been fulfilling that mission since 1974. Currently located on South Grand Avenue West, The Parent Place serves over 5,000 clients per year. At the core of its mission are classes to develop and enhance parenting skills. However, the scope of services has expanded over the years. In situations where child custody between parents is at issue, the agency facilitates child-focused mediation and teaches positive co parenting techniques. It also provides support for grandparents raising grandchildren. Since 2006, the agency has become well-known for its diaper pantry, which provides a monthly pack of diapers as well as education on issues such as nutrition, literacy, car seat safety, and healthy parent/child relationships to qualifying families with children aged two years or younger. The diaper pantry, which is based 100% on community donations, serves approximately 200 babies every month - babies who otherwise may have gone without a clean diaper. Through these and other programs, The Parent Place seeks to foster positive family environments across Springfield so that our next generation can grow and thrive. To learn more, visit www.tppos.org.