|By Larry LeMasters
The Great Pumpkin is a Halloween figure in whom only Linus van Pelt believes. Although, on Oct. and Nov. 1, 1961, official “sightings” of the Great Pumpkin occurred in Connecticut, Texas, and New Jersey. According to Linus, “the Great Pumpkin flies around bringing toys to sincere and believing children on Halloween evening.” Every year, Linus sits in a pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. And every year, the Great Pumpkin fails to show up.
“Just wait ’til next year,” Linus yells to Charlie Brown.
Of course, Linus, the Great Pumpkin, and good ol’ Charlie Brown are cartoon characters invented by Charles M. Schulz in his Peanuts comic strip.
Linus, bowing to Charlie Brown’s logic, acknowledges there are similarities between the Great Pumpkin and Santa Claus, but Linus informs Charlie Brown, “I’ll quit believing in the Great Pumpkin when you stop believing in Santa Claus.” And, of course, that isn’t gonna happen!
Linus first mentioned the existence of the Great Pumpkin in 1959, and in 1966, Schulz wrote an animated television special, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” The most remembered quote from this television special comes from Linus, stating, “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: Religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”
Not too surprising, belief in the Great Pumpkin has led to arguments about religion and symbols of strong faith and foolish faith.
“Linus’ seemingly unshakable belief in the Great Pumpkin, and his desire to foster the same belief in others, has been interpreted as a parody of Christian evangelism, while other people, “have seen Linus’ belief in the Great Pumpkin as symbolic of the struggles faced by anyone with beliefs or practices that are not shared by the majority.”
In 2015, A Charlie Brown Religion was published, explaining all of the various religious interpretations of Linus’ belief in the Great Pumpkin.
Charles Schulz claimed his only intent was humor — Linus confuses Halloween with Christmas, as very young children might want to do. One example given to support the humorous side of the Great Pumpkin’s existence is when Linus asks Charlie Brown and the other children to sing “Pumpkin Carols.”
If you are looking for true humor in the Great Pumpkin, go to Italy where you will find that not all things American translate well over seas. When Peanuts was first introduced in Italy, Halloween, being an American “holiday” was virtually unknown in Italy, so in order to have Italian children understand what a Great Pumpkin was, early translations called it Il Grande Cocomero — the Great Watermelon. This strange translation stuck in Italy, and in all future Great Pumpkin translations, the Great Pumpkin is referred to as the Great Watermelon.
The story of the Great Pumpkin revolves around the feelings each of the Peanuts gang have for each other more than the true believability in the Great Pumpkin. On Halloween night, all of the gang goes trick-or-treating as Linus heads to the pumpkin patch, with Sally in tow, to await the Great Pumpkin. Snoopy rises out of the pumpkin patch, causing Linus to faint, and Sally stomps off angry at missing Halloween waiting for a stupid ol’ Great Pumpkin.
At four o’clock the next morning, Lucy realizes that Linus is not in his bed. She finds her brother in the pumpkin patch, shivering beneath his blanket. Lucy brings Linus home and puts him to bed. The next day, Charlie Brown and Linus lean against a wall and commiserate about the previous night’s disappointments. Charlie Brown attempts to console his friend by saying he has done stupid things in his life, too. This infuriates Linus, who begins to vow that the Great Pumpkin will come to the pumpkin patch next year. “Just you wait, Charlie Brown!”
We may never know if the Great Pumpkin exists, but collectors all over the world help keep Linus, Charlie Brown, and the Great Pumpkin alive. And as long as there are children, collectors of cartoons, and believers in things unseen, the Great Pumpkin will live.