How to Carve a Jack-O'-Lantern
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
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
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
Links to My Other Halloween Hubs
- Holidays - Origins of Halloween
The old saying, variety is the spice of life, says much about the need to enrich our lives and reinvigorate our spirits by deviating periodically from our daily routine. While daily routines like,...
- Pumpkins - History and Lore
In this season of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Fall harvests the pumpkin plays a major role, both as a decoration, Jack-O-Lanterns and center pieces, as well as food with pumpkin pie being the most famous. ...
- Ghostly White Pumpkins
Variety, it is said, is the spice of life. Being able to try or choose new things and having the opportunity to make a choice among many similar things are freedoms that we take for granted. We can take...
- Black Cats and Halloween
Like other holidays, Halloween has symbols associated with it. These symbols help to shape our view of the holiday. When we think of Halloween we think of the colors black and orange. Images of carved...
- The Haunted Cornfield
Autumn has always been a great time of year. For farmers it is the harvesting season while for city dwellers it is a time to begin returning indoors and refocusing on work or school after a summer in the...
In Addition to Carving a Jack-O'-Lantern My Son (photos above) Also Writes for HubPages
- Creating A Halloween Theme
Creating a Halloween theme can be a simple task, yet it is open to many possibilities. All that is required is a central idea and a little brainstorming (and a budget for supplies). A theme can be as simple as...
- Jones Soda Review: 2008 Halloween Flavors
Seeing as how every store is replacing the last of their back to school supplies with halloween decorations and candy, I decided to stop by the local Target to see if they had the new 2008 Jones Soda...
- Alien Cupcakes: An Out Of This World Treat
These cupcakes are great for halloween, a Sci-Fi party, or an alien theme birthday party. They look really cool, and are very delicious.
This Person Decided not to Discard the Seeds
© 2009 Chuck Nugent