Over the years, it’s become increasingly difficult to scare anyone at Halloween. After all, thanks to the internet, kids have already seen pretty much every terrifying thing possible before they’ve reached double-digit ages. But this Halloween, you may spot something startlingly unusual on porches across the world: teal pumpkins. Are these the new spook on the block? Or is there a deeper meaning behind the oddly-colored jack-o’-lanterns?
Halloween is celebrated every year on October 31, and while it’s most popular in the U.S., it’s actually a holiday with roots in Samhain, an ancient Gaelic festival that marked the end of summer. Itself based on Celtic pagan rituals, the festival involved people lighting bonfires to ward off evil spirits.
As part of Samhain, people would also dress up in costume and then knock on their neighbors’ doors to be given food in exchange for delivering verses. Anyone who’s ever gone trick-or-treating will see the similarities in the customs. There are certainly parallels with kids today donning spooky outfits and asking for candy.
Pumpkins, meanwhile, were also a large part of the Gaelic festival. They were seen as either representing or defending people against the souls of the dead, which were said to wander the Earth on Halloween. Carving them into jack-o’-lanterns is a practice continued to this day. And it’s an annual tradition that has spread all over the world.
Recently, however, one of these Halloween customs has taken on a slightly different form. Indeed, the traditionally orange jack-o’-lanterns that sit outside people’s houses have begun turning teal. And for many people, the reason why is a mystery.
If you’ve never seen a teal pumpkin in the flesh, it’s not hard to imagine how strange it looks. After all, these are typically orange fruits, so teal is a completely off-the-wall color. And if you haven’t seen one yet you may do soon, as they’re becoming increasingly common in the U.S. and elsewhere.
So just what are the reasons for this weird new trend, then? Well, in part it’s because over the past few decades we’ve come to a much better understanding of the many ailments that can afflict the human body.
And among those ailments are food allergies, which we now understand the effects of a lot more thanks to advancements in medical science. In fact, one in 13 children in the U.S. suffers from a food allergy of some kind. They can be anything from lactose intolerance to a peanut allergy.
Of course, this can create a particularly difficult situation for kids with such allergies at Halloween. After all, they may well want to go trick-or-treating with their friends. But if they can’t eat the same candy as them, then they may end up feeling left out. And that’s where teal pumpkins come in.
Yes, if you see a teal pumpkin on someone’s porch this Halloween, you’ll know that it’s a safe house to trick-or-treat at for kids with food allergies. As a symbol of inclusivity, it’s certainly eye-catching. And it also signals that a particular house has plenty of non-food treats on offer for those poor kids who can’t eat certain things.
The Teal Pumpkin Project was created by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). It’s the world’s biggest charity for raising awareness of food allergies. The organization’s aim with the initiative, which it launched in 2014, is to promote “inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.”
To that end, FARE has provided a list of ideas for non-food treats. They include stickers, stencils, glow sticks, finger puppets and bouncy balls. Indeed, it’s clear that there are plenty of ways to make sure that every kid is included at Halloween.
Teal is an eye-catching color, so it seems like a perfect choice for this particular campaign. After all, you automatically know that something’s different about a house with a teal pumpkin outside. And just in case passers-by have no clue what it means, FARE has also provided other resources to increase awareness.
As well as posters that can be printed off and put up in your window or outside your home, there are free materials available online for flyers, yard signs and even pumpkin stencils. So if you can’t get your hands on the real thing, there are still plenty of ways to show that you’re participating in the campaign.
Over the past few years, the Teal Pumpkin Project has become a phenomenon that’s spread all across the U.S. “It just makes the kids feel like they are a part of it,” Barbara Bazzell, a South Louisiana resident who’s taken part in the campaign twice, told KPLC. “They’re kids, they like candy but they can’t always have that.”
And much like Halloween itself, the project has also transcended international borders, making its way to places like the U.K. “We have painted a pumpkin and have non-food treats for anyone who cannot have them,” Hanna Boardman of Rochdale, England, told the Manchester Evening News. “We are happy to support it and hope to continue the tradition so that allergy sufferers can celebrate Halloween as well.”
Meanwhile, another local resident, 32-year-old Kirsty Bennett, had also placed a teal pumpkin outside her house. She’d done so in support of her son, who suffers from an allergy to cow’s milk. “To be fair, a lot of parents will also probably appreciate the alternative to sweets without the allergy element anyway,” she said.
There are plenty of ways to get your hands on a teal pumpkin. For instance, you can buy one straight from your nearest pharmacy or craft store, if they’re supporting the campaign. Alternatively, you can just paint a regular pumpkin teal. Or if you don’t fancy getting your hands dirty, simply print off one of the posters.
“This campaign provides a great opportunity for communities to show their support of kids with food allergies who typically cannot enjoy trick-or-treating in the same way that their friends do,” Lois A. Witkop, FARE’s chief advancement officer, told the Manchester Evening News. “As a result of the Teal Pumpkin Project, more Americans are recognizing that food allergies are very serious and have a major impact on a child’s quality of life.”
Of course, just because you have a teal pumpkin outside your house, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still give out candy. It just means that you have other options for the poor kids who can’t enjoy those sweet treats in the same way as their friends. So now, when you see a teal pumpkin on someone’s porch this Halloween, you’ll know exactly why.