| ||Long before Americans came to associate carved pumpkins with the fall harvest holiday of Halloween, vegetables of all sorts such as turnips and rutabagas were being carved into lanterns and decorations on the British Isles, and in fact humans have been carving vegetables into decorations as long as we’ve been eating them. |
Once brought to the United States, the pumpkin first became associated with the autumn season, and soon after the horrific holiday of Halloween claimed the pumpkin’s evil cousin, the Jack-O’-Lantern, as its symbol. Today Jack-O’-Lanterns sit on front porches all over the country not to scare malicious spirits away, but to welcome trick-or-treaters and other guests and let them know that Halloween is being celebrated here.
Ready to carve a pumpkin into a scary, funny or beautiful Jack-O’-Lantern? Follow these steps for a perfect pumpkin pal for your Halloween.
1. Pick out a pumpkin from the grocery store or even better, a pumpkin patch. Choose one with a neat, long stem – this gives it character- and make sure that the bottom is flat enough so that it will sit upright and not roll over. There are many types of pumpkins available today; from traditional orange to white ones to bulbous “fairy tale” varieties- just pick the one that appeals to you most.
2. Once home, take a good look at your pumpkin. What kind of face wants to come out? If this is your first Jack-O’-Lantern, don’t get too crazy with tons of details or tiny carvings. Plenty of stencils and pumpkin designs are available for purchase at stores around Halloween if you are not confident in your face-drawing abilities.
3. Take a washable marker and draw on a face; if you don’t like it then get a wet rag and start over. As you carve your pumpkin this face might rub off, so keep an eye on your drawing to make sure it stays, redoing it if necessary.
4. Put down a large piece of newspaper for your workstation, and grab a large bowl or bucket to put all the goop and discarded pumpkin in. Turn on a scary movie to set the scene.
5. Although stores sell many types of special pumpkin carving equipment, all you really need is a large spoon and a knife. Cut the top off in a circle around the stem, but be sure to angle your knife blade in when you do, otherwise the lid will drop right into the pumpkin. Scrape off any pumpkin goo or seeds that have stuck to the lid. Alternatively, you can cut out the bottom of the pumpkin for a more professional look.
6. Using the large spoon, scrape all the insides out, all the stringy goo and seeds. If you have to carve a bit of the flesh away, that’s okay too. Make sure to get it all out, otherwise it will stink and attract insects and cause your Jack-O’-Lantern to rot much earlier. Save the seeds and roast them if you would like.
7. Now your pumpkin is ready to carve. Make sure your marker lines are still there, and with the sharp knife, carve out your eyes, nose and mouth, starting with the smallest holes first. You may have to use your knife to poke out the pieces once they are cut.
8. If you mess up, just make your mistake part of the original plan and adapt your design around it – no one will ever know!
9. Once you are done carving, make sure all the pumpkin innards get thrown away, and you might have to clean off any extra goo or marker lines from the outside of the pumpkin with a wet washcloth. Name it.
10. Set a small tea candle or a pumpkin light in your creation, put the lid on and turn off the lights to say hello to your new friend. Set your Jack-O’-Lantern on your front porch or steps, in a window, or keep him inside- but the warmer its environments, the sooner it will rot, so outside is the best place for a Jack-O’-Lantern. Now enjoy your work of art!
Shilo Urban is a freelance writer who has just relocated to Los Angeles after her previous homes of Seattle, New Zealand, Paris, Maine, and Austin. She is an active member of the West Coast electronic music community and lives to promote the art that she loves and the people who create it.