The Real Reason Families Are Displaying Purple Pumpkins This Halloween

Zee Krstic
·5-min read
The Real Reason Families Are Displaying Purple Pumpkins This Halloween
The Real Reason Families Are Displaying Purple Pumpkins This Halloween

From Good Housekeeping

  • Communities are expanding on the Epilepsy Foundation's Purple Pumpkin Project to signify that they are taking extra precautions to lower COVID-19 risks this Halloween.

  • A purple pumpkin on a porch or in a window means families will be wearing masks while handing out trick-or-treating candy, and will pass out wrapped grab-and-go bags.

  • While the trend is bringing more attention to safety recommendations from health officials, it's also raising more awareness for those impacted by epilepsy through a nationwide fundraiser.

Despite rising trends in new coronavirus cases across the country, many families are still planning to participate in trick-or-treating this weekend as Halloween approaches; as many as 62%, in fact, per a National Retail Federation survey of 148 million Americans. But Halloween is certainly going to feel different, with many local officials encouraging social distancing and lower-risk outdoor activities after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed trick-or-treating as a "high-risk" activity. One advocacy group, normally in charge of organizing efforts to raise awareness on epilepsy throughout the fall season, is now inspiring families to make trick-or-treating a little bit safer during the pandemic.

The Epilepsy Foundation created what's known as the Purple Pumpkin Project back in 2012 after one parent wanted to raise awareness about his son's condition; after inviting other parents to display a purple pumpkin on their porches to prompt conversations with neighbors, the Project soon earned active participants in all 50 states. Families impacted by epilepsy can sign up here to partake in the project (it's not too late!), where they have the chance to tell their story on a fundraising page designed to raise awareness about the condition. A representative for the Epilepsy Foundation tells Good Housekeeping that families are encouraged to leave their purple pumpkins out through November 30, as this year's fundraising goal is $35,000 (in the past five years, the project has raised more than $75,000 in total).

This year, however, the Purple Pumpkin Project has taken on a new meaning thanks to social media users: It's expanded to signal to families that the household is taking extra precautions to lower COVID-19 risks.

What do purple Halloween pumpkins mean?

In addition to being a symbol for epilepsy awareness, Americans are displaying purple pumpkins to show they've followed local safety guidelines to keep trick-or-treating as safe as possible. Families who display a purple pumpkin will wear masks while answering the door or greeting trick-or-treaters, and as WFXT Fox25 in Boston reports, they may pass out candy that is individually wrapped in grab-and-go bags.

Officials in the Long Island region are also encouraging residents to take part in the new pumpkin initiative in the hopes that even small safety measures can reduce COVID-19 risks. CBS News in New York reports that Lynbrook town officials are actively telling residents to keep an eye out for purple pumpkins while trick-or-treating this year.

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#OperationSaveHalloween #SaveHalloween

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In a statement to Good Housekeeping, an Epilepsy Foundation official shares that they are unaware of a single individual or group who started the new trend — but that it largely circulated under #OperationSaveHalloween on social media. "We appreciate the spotlight this has put on our Purple Pumpkin Project and the added awareness this has generated about epilepsy overall," the organization tells us, adding that many are now aware that 3.4 million Americans are impacted by the brain condition. "We see this as an opportunity to expand our message beyond our epilepsy community, educate and engage with those who previously had no knowledge about epilepsy."

This year, the Foundation has pivoted to virtual pumpkin painting parties with its fundraising members, and have encouraged members who have signed up for the Project to "make sure they are following their local state or county COVID-19 protocols regarding Halloween." Not all families displaying a purple pumpkin this year may be participating in the Foundation's fundraiser, but social users are indicating that displaying the pumpkin signifies that families are heeding health guidance and advice from CDC officials.

Those who display purple pumpkins are likely indicating that no sick individuals are inside the home in question. In addition to wearing masks and safeguarding their candy bowls, health officials share that sanitizing high-touch surfaces throughout the night (like hand rails) is important. Plus, keeping your hands as clean as possible and keeping interactions brief (or simply leaving candy outside altogether!) is a good idea as well.

Purple pumpkins are indeed available to purchase on sites like Amazon, but you can simply paint a pumpkin purple at home, or even display pictures of a purple pumpkin in your window, to indicate you are adhering to local health guidelines.

What about Teal pumpkins?

You've probably also heard about displaying teal colored pumpkins during Halloween, as FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) has organized national programs every year to keep kids with allergies safe. A teal pumpkin means families can find an allergy-friendly treat, or a non-food item altogether, at your home for those who may need it.

Teal pumpkins are still being displayed this year, allowing you to demonstrate that you're prepared to help kids with allergies celebrate Halloween. In fact, the FARE organization has created an online hub for families to take what's known as the "Teal Pumpkin Pledge" long before Halloween arrives. This year, the community is focusing on new and fun ways to celebrate Halloween safely — which may mean new traditions designed to keep you as close to home as possible.

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