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Communities are expanding on the Epilepsy Foundation's Purple Pumpkin Project to signify that they are taking extra precautions to lower COVID-19 risks.
A purple pumpkin on a porch or in a window signifies families will be wearing masks while handing out candy, and will pass out wrapped grab-and-go bags to trick or treaters.
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.
Purple pumpkins appeared on many porches across the U.S. in 2020 as a way to help raise safety awareness during the COVID-19 pandemic. They served as a beacon of hope for families who wanted to experience Halloween traditions with as little COVID-19 risk as possible, as the color indicated a pledge on behalf of the homeowner to follow recommended safety guidelines. But purple pumpkins were first used by advocates raising awareness on epilepsy.
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, 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 told Good Housekeeping that families are encouraged to leave their purple pumpkins out through November 30. Previously, the foundation's 2020 fundraising goal was $35,000 (between 2015 and 2020, the project had raised more than $75,000 in total).
Once again this year, however, the Purple Pumpkin Project is taking on a new meaning, signaling to families that the household is taking extra precautions to lower COVID-19 risks while kids are out trick-or-treating.
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 previously reported, they may pass out candy that is individually wrapped in grab-and-go bags.
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 COVID-related 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 told us last year, adding that many are now aware that over three million Americans are impacted by the brain condition, per the CDC. "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 media 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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