Do one just for the family or hold a pumpkin carving party. (That is, if you can trust your friends with sharp objects!)
According to Pumpkin Carving 101, Jack O’Lanterns came into use in Europe as part of the Celtic holiday known as Samhain [which eventually became known as All Saints Eve] which means “summers end.” Occurring on October 1st through sundown November 1st, it was a night to honor loved ones that had passed on as the veil between their realm and ours is the thinnest on that night.
The original jack-o-lanterns were carved from turnips or gourds and were set on porches or in windows to welcome deceased loved ones and to act as protectors against malevolent spirits. When the European settlers (particularly the Irish) came to America, they found the native pumpkin to be larger and easier to carve. (Have you ever tried carving a turnip?)
So, just what do you need to make a Jack-O-Lantern?
Well, you can go buy a fancy Pumpkin Carving Kit which seem to be available in just about every drug store, grocery store, Walmart, etc. OR, you can dig around the kitchen, the garage, workshop, etc. and come up with a variety of things you already own.
You’ll need a “poker tool”. This is something to use to “poke” the design onto the pumpkin once you’ve drawn your design. You can use something as simple as a large sturdy nail or even an ice pick. (The ice pick also comes in handy later when you’re really poking all the way through the pumpkin.)
You will obviously need a few sharp knives. I have found a boner type knife and paring knives work really well. Keyhole saws and X-Acto knives are also good tools to use.
Before beginning the actual carving, you need to open the pumpkin and clean out its “guts.” Generally, you do this by cutting a fairly small cap-like piece out of the top. (Be sure it’s big enough to get your hand in there.) Lift this lid piece off and begin scooping out the innards of your pumpkin. I simply throw mine away but some folks rinse out the seeds, dry them and then roast them.) I find large serving spoons and ice cream scoops work well for this job. It is important to get out all of this junk as this is what will rot and create some obnoxious scents if left inside your creation!Before doing any cutting, give your design some thought and maybe sketch out an idea or two. There’s no changing your mind once you start cutting!
Trace or sketch your design onto your pumpkin before you start cutting. Grease pencils work well for this but you can use a regular pen or marker.
Short on ideas or creativity? There’s a world of help online!
Try some of these sites for ideas, pictures and free patterns. (There’s so many more, simply Google “pumpkin carving.”)
To really get into the spirit of things (pun intended) check out the Pumpkin Lady’s blog and enjoy her daily posts!
Want to see some really cool complicated carvings or enter your masterpiece in next year's contest? Check out Spookmaster!