How to Carve a Jack-O'-Lantern

Pumpkin

Pumpkin waiting to be Turned into a Jack-O-Lantern
Pumpkin waiting to be Turned into a Jack-O-Lantern | Source

Jack-O'-Lanterns Are Halloween

Utter the word Halloween and the first image that comes to most people's minds is a Jack-O'-Lantern - a pumpkin with a face carved on it.

The practice of celebrating Halloween with Jack-O'-Lanterns is an ancient one going back to ancient Ireland. Except that, in Ireland, they used to hollow out a turnip and place a candle inside to light their way on Halloween.

When masses of Irish came to America in the nineteenth century they brought the tradition of the Jack-O'-Lantern with them but soon discovered that pumpkins, which were plentiful here, made better Jack-O'-Lanterns than turnips.

Thus, carved pumpkins became a staple of Halloween.

A Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

Trying to decide which pumpkin to pick in a field of pumpkins
Trying to decide which pumpkin to pick in a field of pumpkins | Source

First, Get Your Pumpkin

The first step in the making of a Jack-O'-Lantern is to procure a pumpkin.

Pumpkins are abundant around Halloween. You basically have three choices:

- Grow your own pumpkin in which case you would have had to have begun your Halloween planning last spring as pumpkins take a few months to grow. For this you will also need a yard big enough for a big garden.

- A second option is to go to the local supermarket and buy a pumpkin

- A third, and most fun, option is to head out to the country to a farm where you can pick your own pumpkin. This is always great fun and had the added benefit of beginning your celebration early. It is also good for the farmer as you do the work of harvesting the crop for him while he gets to sell the pumpkin for the same price as your local supermarket charge - this is great for the farmer as he gets a higher price and less work. But what the heck! your goal is to have a great time, and not worry about saving a few cents on your pumpkin.

Carving a Jack-o-Lantern

Creating a Jack O Lantern Step 1 - use  a marker outline a face for your pumpkin
Creating a Jack O Lantern Step 1 - use a marker outline a face for your pumpkin | Source
Creating a Jack O Lantern Step 2 - Cut a circle at the top around the stem of pumpkin  to gain access to the inside and then scrape out the seeds and loose, stringy pulp.
Creating a Jack O Lantern Step 2 - Cut a circle at the top around the stem of pumpkin to gain access to the inside and then scrape out the seeds and loose, stringy pulp. | Source
Creating a Jack O Lantern Step 3 - Using a sharp knife, begin to cut out the areas you had marked for the face
Creating a Jack O Lantern Step 3 - Using a sharp knife, begin to cut out the areas you had marked for the face | Source
Creating a Jack O Lantern Step 4 - The carving of the face will take a few minutes.
Creating a Jack O Lantern Step 4 - The carving of the face will take a few minutes. | Source

Next, Carve Your Pumpkin

Once you have selected a pumpkin and brought it home you are ready to carve it.

If you live in an area where the weather has already become cold, you can carve your pumpkin a week or so in advance.

However, if you live in an area like Tucson where the temperature is still in the 70s and 80s in late October, you might want to wait until a couple days before Halloween to carve your pumpkin as, once carved, it will tend to start spoiling in the heat.

To carve the Pumpkin:

1 Take a marker and draw the face you want. You just need to outline where you will cut. If you have artistic talent, you can be very creative. However, in our family we tend to stick to basic triangles for eyes and nose with a curved mouth and a few teeth below the nose.

2 Next, cut a circle around the stem at the top. Your circle will have to be large enough in diameter to allow you to reach inside and scoop out the seeds and pulp and then place and light a candle inside.

3 Scoop out the seeds and loose pulp. A large serving spoon or other object to scoop with is a big help. We use a wide ice cream scooper. This can be messy and your hands and arm will be covered with the slimy goo from the seeds and pulp.

4 Take a sharp knife and cut out the eyes, nose and mouth (and anything else you want to carve in the pumpkin). This requires some work as the pumpkin is about an inch thick and tends to be very firm making cutting somewhat difficult. There are special tools that can be purchased for this but I have always used a medium sized parring knife.

5 Once done, place a candle (small votive candles work best as they tend to be stable inside the pumpkin). I sometimes take a teaspoon or tablespoon and dig a little indentation to set the candle in to make it more secure.

6 Set the pumpkin where you want to display it, light the candle, turn off the lights and admire your scary result.

Pumpkin Transformed into a Jack-O'-Lantern

Creating a Jack O Lantern Step 5 - Your completed Jack-O-Lantern lit up with a burning candle inside.
Creating a Jack O Lantern Step 5 - Your completed Jack-O-Lantern lit up with a burning candle inside. | Source

Jack-o-Lanterns Galore

A scary looking Jack-O-Lantern
A scary looking Jack-O-Lantern | Source
Jack O Lantern glowing in the dark.
Jack O Lantern glowing in the dark. | Source
Two scary looking jackolanterns
Two scary looking jackolanterns | Source
Source

This Person Decided not to Discard the Seeds

A little sick but quite creative.  This particular Jack-O-Lantern graced the porch of a small office inTaos, New Mexico
A little sick but quite creative. This particular Jack-O-Lantern graced the porch of a small office inTaos, New Mexico | Source

© 2009 Chuck Nugent

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Comments 14 comments

plinka profile image

plinka 4 years ago from Budapest, Hungary

I'm planning to make a Jack-O-Lantern this year. It's not a custom here in Hungary, but I think it's fun. I may choose a smaller pumpkin, because it must be a tough job, I mean cut out the eyes and the mouth, it's sort of male job. Thanks for the instruction.


PiaC profile image

PiaC 4 years ago from Oakland, CA

I'm not a very crafty person, but this Hub is so detailed that I think even I could carve a pumpkin! Thanks for the tips!


lisa42 profile image

lisa42 5 years ago from Sacramento

It's nice to see a hub with so many photos. Well done!


thejovial profile image

thejovial 5 years ago from United States

I usually print out a design on tracing paper, tape that to the pumpkin and go slow with a scalpel or razor blade. Can get very intricate designs that way.


Migodden profile image

Migodden 6 years ago from Canada Ontario

oh you!


bestcellphones 6 years ago

yay pumkin carving is soo much fun!


johnr54 profile image

johnr54 6 years ago from Texas

One thing we do is save the seeds and roast them in the oven. They taste a little like sunflower seeds.


sandwichmom profile image

sandwichmom 7 years ago from Arkansas

I love seeing the creative pumpkins on porches each year! Roasted pumpkin seeds are always great too.


Hmrjmr1 profile image

Hmrjmr1 7 years ago from Georgia, USA

Great Hub!


Isabellas profile image

Isabellas 7 years ago from Ohio

Looks like a ton of fun! I know my kids love carving pumpkins


harrisdy profile image

harrisdy 7 years ago from New York

i wish i could go pumpkin picking this year... thanks for sharing this hub!


judydianne profile image

judydianne 7 years ago from Palm Harbor, FL

Carving a Jack-O-Lantern is always something to look forward to during the Halloween season. We have the same problem in Florida. It's not quite cold enough by the end of October. Nice explanation of carving.


heysmarty0 profile image

heysmarty0 7 years ago

lyricsingray is right , It will be fun to try this. Very well written and nice post. Thanks :)


lyricsingray 7 years ago

I can't wait to try this-How much Fun! Thanks! Kimberly

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