Pumpkin Jack-O-Lantern Carving Tips
According to one legend, the first Jack-o-Lanterns were created for spirits who went wandering during the pagan feasts of Samhain. They provided a warm alternative for mischievous ghouls to take shelter in. It was definitely preferable having them haunt the family home!
Today, a carved pumpkin lit up from within provides neighbourhood children with a sign that treats are to be had at your house on Halloween. It also shows that you welcome spooky and mischievous visitors with warmth.
The jack-o-lantern with its flickering light isn’t scary. Some psychologists even say that carving a pumpkin is one way of controlling our fears and making them manageable.
Carving a pumpkin, like decorating a Christmas tree, is a highly-personalized activity. Aside from a few guidelines, there really is no right and wrong.
Choose the right pumpkin
When choosing pumpkins to carve, don’t worry about smooth or unblemished skin. Scars can be integrated into your design and make for a spookier effect. Look instead for solid, firm pumpkins with no soft or damp spots. A handle of stalk at the top makes for easier carving. The younger the children you’ll be carving with, the bigger the pumpkin you should choose. As their dexterity and patience develop, you can go smaller and expect more detail in their work and interest. Until then, size and simplicity of design are the catch phrases.
Choose the right tools
A carving knife to cut an opening into the top of the pumpkin is needed and that job is best done by an adult. Scooping out the slimy guts and seeds is a job that must be done by children who, if they don’t have a tolerance for the disgusting parts of nature, need to develop one. Besides, what child can truly learn to appreciate Halloween without some slimy pumpkin guts?
Safety-tested plastic carving sets are now widely-available. While these are no doubt safer than any set of kitchen knives, adult supervision and care in using sharp edges is still required. Many sets come with sculpting instructions and stencils to create high-art pumpkins or popular cartoon characters. Don’t, though, discount the big-toothed grins of the traditional Jack-o-Lantern. Fun, not fashion, is the first order of Halloween.
Choose the right time
Don’t rush when you carve your pumpkin. Creativity needs thought. It needs laughter. You also need time to prepare the work area by lining the floor or table with newspapers. You should never run through any activity that requires sharp tools. Try to find some time a day or two before Halloween to let your pumpkin dry out after you cut it. Damp pumpkins can smoke when lit up from the inside with candles. Speaking of candles, fire departments do recommend replacing candles with battery-powered lights and light-sticks. The only Halloween horrors should come from costumes and decorations, not accidents.