When COVID-19 forced global shut-downs back in March, many of us thought (or at the very least hoped) that by Halloween, things would be better. Instead, parents have to decide whether or not they can allow their kids to go out for Halloween at all. This is where the idea of putting out purple pumpkins came from.
Purple Pumpkins on the Porch
Across the country, there are a variety of opinions as to whether or not Halloween should be canceled this year. Some say yes, others no. Some say that it should be up to a region or municipality, others say it should be neighborhood dependent.
A recent viral campaign started on Facebook that suggests that maybe it can be an individual family decision, and the way that people in the neighborhood can indicate their participation is using purple pumpkins.
Essentially, if you put a purple pumpkin on your porch, you are indicating to your neighborhood that you are participating in Halloween. This is a signal to trick-or-treaters that they can come and get candy from your house.
The pumpkin itself can be anything you want it to be: A paper cut-out, a store-bought fake purple pumpkin, or a real pumpkin that you’ve painted purple. Whatever it’s made out of, the important thing that it is big and visible enough to be seen from the sidewalk.
Now, while this viral Facebook post suggests that painting pumpkins purple is a new thing this year, it actually isn’t. People have been painting pumpkins purple since 2012, but for a different reason, to raise awareness for Epilepsy. So it is important to not take away from the awareness that is meant to made to help fight the disease.
Some Viral Confusion: The Original Purple Pumpkin is Actually for Epilepsy Awareness
Ron Lamontagne’s youngest son was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2009. (4) Epilepsy is also known as a seizure disorder and is diagnosed when a person has had two or more seizures. (5) It can start at any age, however is most often diagnosed in people either under the age of 20 or over the age of 65. (6)
On a drive with his family through Connecticut one Sunday, Ron was thinking about how he could help to raise awareness about his son’s condition. Pumpkin carving season gave him an idea: He would paint one of his pumpkins purple. (4)
Naturally, people would be curious about the purple pumpkin, allowing Ron the opportunity to talk about Epilepsy with friends, family, and neighbors. (4)
Ron started the Purple Pumpkin Project Facebook page on September 2, 2012, and within three days it spread to all 50 states. Now every autumn you can see purple pumpkins on porches and various purple pumpkin events across America. (4)
It is important that while we attempt to create a safe way for children to enjoy Halloween this year, we don’t forget the real reason behind purple pumpkins.
The Argument For and Against Halloween
In the year of the coronavirus pandemic, obviously many people have some valid concerns. After all, going knocking door-to-door and touching things that other people are touching does seem potentially dangerous given the current situation.
That being said, many people have a few reasons why Halloween should be okay:
- Many costumes already include masks
- Costumes are generally something you wear once (or at least once a year)
- Halloween doesn’t involve actually going into people’s homes
- Halloween is the only “holiday” that doesn’t involve visiting older relatives and lots of hugging
- Most of the candy comes individually wrapped.
These points are all valid, though of course, there are still flaws:
- Not all costumes involve masks, nor do they replace medical or non-medical masks.
- Not everyone will do a good job at maintaining six feet of distance from the candy-givers and the trick-or-treaters
- Some neighborhoods can get crowded
- You still have to touch the wrappers of the candy that many hands could have been on.
The point of the purple pumpkins is so that each individual can decide whether or not they will participate in Halloween. This will mitigate the number of trick-or-treaters ringing the doorbells of people who have no candy for them.
Costume Masks Don’t Replace Real Masks
The CDC states that costume masks do not replace protective face masks. They also recommend not to have your children wear a costume mask with a protective mask because the combination of the two will make it hard for them to breathe. (3)
Buy a Halloween-themed face mask or decorate plain masks with a spooky theme or to match your child’s costume. For example, fangs or a witches nose can be added, mouths can be drawn on, or you can decorate like the superhero they are going as. (2)
How to Celebrate Halloween Safely
According to the CDC
The CDC has released guidelines for how to safely celebrate Halloween this year. Thre are low, medium, and high risk activities associated with the holiday. The CDC advises those who have or think they have COVD-19 to not participate in any in person activities.
For Those Who Will Be Trick or Treating
While the CDC, in general, advises against traditional trick-or-treating there will be some who decide to do it. In these cases, there are some best practices that you should follow.
According to Sandra Kesh, an infectious disease physician at Westmed Medical Group in Purchase, New York, its possible to safely trick or treat this year if you:
- Limit groups to only 3 or 4 kids, or keep it to just your family.
- If going with other families, ask if they have been taking precautions and wearing masks.
- Wipe down candy with sanitizing wipes or allow it to sit for a few days.
- Do not go out if coronavirus is uncontrolled in your area.
- Trick-or-treat outdoors, not in closed spaces like apartment buildings.
- Have a serious conversation with your kids outlining this year’s rules.
- Use hand sanitizer and avoid touching your face.
- Wear Halloween themed cloth masks, with at least two layers of fabric.
- If you are sick, don’t hand out candy or trick or treat.
- Try contactless candy delivery – a close line strung with candy bags, candy bags lined up six feet apart at the end of a yard or driveway, or a long cardboard “candy tube slide”. (2,3)
Not Trick or Treating? Here are some other Ideas:
- Host a virtual costume party
- Watch Halloween movies
- Have a scavenger hunt inside your home or yard for just your kids (3)
The CDC recommends either doing indoor activities with just your family or outdoor activities where everyone stays six feet apart, wears masks, and washes their hands. (3) A little creativity goes a long way. If you think outside of the normal, your kids can still have a fun-filled Halloween.
The Bottom Line
It is everyone’s responsibility to abide by their local regulations. If your state or municipality has ‘canceled’ Halloween, do not disregard this order. If you are able and decide to participate in Halloween this year, be sure to wear masks, use hand sanitizer when needed, stay six feet apart from others, and wash your hands when you get home.