Year after year, Halloween continues to change.
From candy being left in buckets on the front porch to fewer public events due to the pandemic, Halloween looks different this year than it did five or ten years ago. And chances are, it’ll continue to change with time.
So, what is one specific way Halloween looks different? Well, gone are the days when all pumpkins are orange. Now, pumpkins come in all colors, and many of these colors represent something specific and important.
So what do purple pumpkins on Halloween mean?
Purple pumpkins represent epilepsy awareness.
While National Epilepsy Awareness Month doesn’t happen until November each year, epilepsy advocates are getting a head start with purple pumpkins in October. And they’re finding that these pumpkins are making a difference in the epilepsy community.
Here are 7 things you need to know about purple pumpkins at Halloween.
1. The idea for purple pumpkins came from a dad
Ron Lamontagne’s little boy was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2009 when he was just four years old. As a result, Ron has spent much of his life finding ways to help his son and others who struggle with the debilitating effects of this neurological disorder.
Like any good dad who loves his child, Lamontagne is committed to advocating however and whenever possible.
One Sunday while taking a morning drive through Connecticut, Lamontagne started brainstorming ways he could help spread epilepsy awareness. He thought of things familiar to him and eventually considered his local pumpkin patch. Knowing the local kids would soon be buying, carving, and decorating their pumpkins for Halloween, he had the idea to create purple pumpkins.
He hoped that whenever someone asked, “Why is your pumpkin purple?” he (and others) would have the chance to talk about epilepsy and raise awareness.
2. When you see a purple pumpkin, you’re encouraged to ask about it
Lamontagne hopes people will continue to ask, “Why is your pumpkin purple?”
In fact, the question has become almost a tagline for epilepsy supporters who proudly put their purple pumpkins on the porch. They want to have a conversation. There is nothing taboo about a purple pumpkin.
So, if you see a purple pumpkin as part of someone’s indoor or outdoor decoration this fall, say something about it! Chances are, the owner is waiting for someone to ask. Many people who put purple pumpkins on the porch have experienced shame and secrecy around an epilepsy diagnosis – either for themselves or someone they love.
Asking about a purple pumpkin and having a friendly discussion about epilepsy can help someone feel seen and heard.
3. Purple pumpkins are purple for a specific reason
Internationally, lavender is the color used to represent epilepsy. March 26 is Purple Day, and people are encouraged to wear purple and discuss epilepsy in their community. The goal of Purple Day is to help dispel myths and fears as well as lingering social stigmas surrounding epilepsy.
Another important annual event in the US is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, which teaches people about epilepsy’s causes and symptoms.
So purple pumpkins make sense in light of purple already being the designated color for epilepsy.
While Lamontagne created the idea of purple pumpkins, the color for epilepsy awareness was already well-established.
4. The Purple Pumpkin Project started in 2012
Lamontagne created a Purple Pumpkin Project Facebook page on September 2, 2012. Within 48 hours, the page had garnered likes from all 50 states. Ten days later, the page had already received over 1,000 likes. And shortly thereafter, people started sending and sharing photos of their purple pumpkins.
The idea of purple pumpkins representing epilepsy awareness clearly connected with people all over the world who had a similar desire to share their experiences. Often, epilepsy advocates want to say and do more to support the community, but they aren’t always sure what steps to take. The Purple Pumpkin Project gave advocates a clear path to promote epilepsy awareness throughout their individual and collective communities.
Today, the Purple Pumpkin Project Facebook page has over 10,000 likes, and it keeps growing.
Soon, purple pumpkins could be as easily seen and recognizable throughout neighborhoods as orange pumpkins. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
5. You can make your own purple pumpkin this year
Yes, you can!
It isn’t hard to create your own purple pumpkin. In fact, here’s how you do it:
- Grow or buy a pumpkin. Ideally, the pumpkin will have a smooth and even surface. Avoid pumpkins with bruises, deep gashes, or scratches, if possible. The smoother, the better.
- Wash and dry the pumpkin. Do your best to remove as much dirt and grime on the pumpkin as possible, so the pumpkin is smooth and clean. Baby wipes are helpful for this step. Gently wipe off as much excess material as possible without damaging the pumpkin’s skin.
- Thoroughly dry the pumpkin when you’re done washing it. Note: Avoid using anything harsh – like a scrub brush or the harsh side of a sponge – to clean the pumpkin. Using anything other than a damp cloth or wipe can actually create unwanted scratches on the pumpkin. Let the pumpkin dry completely.
- Gather your paint supplies. Paintbrushes, sponges, and cotton swabs make good painting tools.
- Test your purple paint on a small section of the pumpkin. Acrylic paint, chalkboard paint, and spray paint have all been used to paint pumpkins purple. Find what works well for you.
- Have fun! You’re painting a pumpkin for a good cause. You’re doing a good thing. Enjoy it!
6. Purple pumpkins represent a lot of people
One reason a purple pumpkin is so impactful is that far more people have epilepsy than most of us realize. The epilepsy community is large and growing all the time.
According to the CDC, epilepsy affects about 3.4 million people nationwide, and 470,000 of them are children. This number represents more people than those with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s disease combined.
Every 4 minutes, someone receives an epilepsy diagnosis.
Not only should we be having conversations about the impact of epilepsy, but we should be doing more to support and encourage the epilepsy community.
Epilepsy is very prevalent in the world today, and purple pumpkins are helpful for starting – and continuing – the conversation.
7. Purple pumpkins and buckets can make a difference!
Purple pumpkins have a great capacity to make an impact on Halloween. Starting conversations with trick-or-treaters or visitors who stop by and ask about the pumpkins can lead to meaningful discussions about epilepsy.
Since epilepsy – and seizures – are so deeply misunderstood, discussions that relay accurate, quality information about epilepsy can make a big difference.
Additionally, children who have epilepsy are able to see people advocating for them as well as welcoming them. Imagine a young child with an epilepsy diagnosis discovering a purple pumpkin on a neighbor’s porch or seeing another person carrying a purple bucket and knowing what it means. Something this seemingly insignificant can go a long way in helping the child know and understand he isn’t alone.
Purple pumpkins are an easy way to add meaning to your Halloween display. And all of your pumpkins don’t need to be purple in order to make a difference. Simply buy or paint a purple pumpkin and add it to your seasonal display. You never know what conversations you may be able to have as a result.
Bottom line: Halloween can be scary, but epilepsy doesn’t need to be.