The Great Pumpkin is a holiday figure in whom only Linus van Pelt believes. 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 (a place Linus believes is the most sincere and lacking in hypocrisy) on Halloween night waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. Invariably, the Great Pumpkin fails to turn up, but a humiliated yet undefeated Linus vows to wait for him again the following Halloween. Linus acknowledges the similarities between the Great Pumpkin and Santa Claus, the existence of which Linus considers to be ambiguous (in the television special, Linus tells Charlie Brown he’ll stop believing in the Great Pumpkin when Charlie Brown stops believing in Santa Claus, while writing to the Great Pumpkin that Santa Claus has better publicity). Charlie Brown attributes Linus’s belief in the Great Pumpkin to “denominational differences”. The Great Pumpkin was first mentioned by Linus in Peanuts in 1959, but the premise was reworked by Schulz many times throughout the run of the strip, and also inspired the 1966 animated television special It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and had brief mentions in You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown (1972) (in which the mention of it almost blows Linus’ chances in a school election); It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (1974) in which Sally expresses her concerns about the Easter Beagle’s reality to Linus, citing her previous experience with the non appearance of the Great Pumpkin; and You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown (1975) in which Linus goes into the pumpkin patch to make a makeshift motorcycle helmet for Charlie Brown for a motocross race, with Charlie being teased as being the Great Pumpkin by some race fans. The best-known quote regarding Linus and the Great Pumpkin, originally from the comic strip but made famous by the TV special, is: “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”
While Schulz usually avoided outright politics, he enjoyed his Great Pumpkin strips and also enjoyed incorporating religious references in many of his comics and animated cartoons.
Peculiarly—given that the Great Pumpkin is supposedly believed in only by Linus—the strips of October 29 and November 1, 1961 make mention of officially reported Great Pumpkin sightings in Connecticut, Texas and New Jersey.