Why Do People Put Out Teal Pumpkins on Halloween?
While walking my dog through our neighborhood the other day, I noticed a beautiful glowing teal pumpkin sitting on my neighbor’s stoop. I didn’t think much of it until I saw another teal pumpkin sitting atop a ledge on the expansive porch of another home. I wondered if “teal” was the new “unicorn”. When I got back to my apartment, I did a quick search and learned the teal pumpkin isn’t just a fun decoration, it represents an alliance, a safe space, an inclusive home for children with food allergies. THIS is a home where trick or treaters with food allergies can find a safe alternative to Halloween candy.
I know what you’re thinking, “Christina, food allergies are not a big deal–why do we have to change our candy routine for a few kids with silly allergies? Tell them to suck it up!” I get it. You’re annoyed because kids these days are coddled and you’re probably not wrong. But food allergies don’t have anything to do with placating picky children; putting a teal pumpkin on your stoop doesn’t mean we’re setting up children to expect that society will bend at their will. The Teal Pumpkin Project signals that our culture is getting smarter in learning how to incorporate the needs of ALL kids on Halloween.
Do you remember trick-or-treating as a kid?! Can you recall the thrill of running from one house to the next–that small sliver of freedom you experienced in exploring your neighborhood while accumulating hoards of candy to pack in your pillowcase? Now imagine you’re a kid with a severe peanut, egg, milk, soy, or tree nut allergy? Your candy options are markedly limited and it’s another reminder that you are not able to participate in things the way your friends do. Sure, you can dress up, but you can’t accept the candy and if you do, you can’t eat it. Because if you do eat it, you’re likely to go into anaphylactic shock and end up in the hospital.
My niece, Pearl, has severe food allergies. If she simply comes into secondhand contact with one of the foods on her “do not eat” list, she breaks out into hives–red rashes peppering her tiny body and causing excruciating discomfort. It’s heart-breaking to see her suffer and while she’s too young and blissfully ignorant of her food allergies, I know her parents worry about providing her a normal childhood, creating a life for her that’s similar to her peers.
Kids like Pearl deserve to enjoy Halloween just like the rest of us did. The Teal Pumpkin Project was born out of the idea that homes with a teal pumpkin are safe spots for kids with food allergies–neighbors often choosing to hand out non-food options to trick or treaters. I know it’s Halloween morning and you’re scrambling to get out the door. But if you have time today, I encourage you to run and grab a few things for those kids with food allergies.
The Teal Pumpkin Project gives a variety of suggestions on fun things to hand out but here are a few favorites: glow sticks, bubbles, beads, notepads, stickers, stamps, temporary tattoos, pencils, or anything else you find in the Dollar Section at Target. Just be sure to put the non-food items in a separate bowl from the food items if you’re handing out candy. Ask the trick or treaters to “choose a prize OR candy” and I promise both kids and parents will feel grateful for your empathy and for thinking about their child’s needs.
Today should be a fun and carefree day for kids. Let’s help reduce risk and anxiety for our neighbors and friends today. To learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project and to see an interactive map with participating homes in your area, click here.