Learn how to carve pumpkins for your Halloween decorations this fall. This easy guide provides tools, tips, and ideas to help you plan and create the perfect jack-o-lantern.
This is the year to become a pumpkin-carving pro. A jack-o'-lantern ace. A prince or princess of the patch. But you won't be able to succeed alone. No, you'll need an army of carefully crafted cutlery and insider intel. Luckily, we've got some great pumpkin carving tips to help you get started!
Where Did Pumpkin Carving Originate?
The custom of carving pumpkins to create jack-o-lanterns is believed to have originated in Ireland. Residents in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands originally carved turnips and field beets, called mangle-wurzels, with grotesque faces to frighten off a drunkard from an Irish myth called Stingy Jack.
Prior to his death, it’s believed that Jack tricked the devil over a deal for monetary gain. When he died, he was denied entry into heaven. At the same time, the devil, upset by Jack’s constant trickery, also refused him admittance. As a result, Jack was sentenced to roam earth for all eternity.
When Irish immigrants came to America, they brought this tradition with them. However, they chose to carve pumpkins for this purpose as they were native to the region.
The Celtic festival Samhain marks the end of summer and the beginning of the new year on November 1st. During this time, it’s believed that souls who had died would return to visit their homes.
When the Roman Catholic Church moved All Saints’ Day to the first of November, All Hallows’ Eve fell on the day prior. Keeping with Samhain tradition, people began to wear disguises to hide themselves from wandering ghosts. Around the same time, the tradition of carving turnips to ward off Stingy Jack was also incorporated into the holiday to ward off evil spirits.
What is the Best Pumpkin for Carving?
Before you carve a jack-o-lantern, you need to pick a pumpkin. You want to choose a carving pumpkin, rather than one meant for pies for the best results. Carving pumpkins have a thinner rind that’s well suited for carving. They also have less flesh on the inside.
Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins are the best, and most popular, type of pumpkins for carving. They have thin walls that make them easy to cut. Plus, they’re readily available throughout the season at most grocery stores. Assuming you don’t have the chance to visit your local pumpkin patch.
Other suitable pumpkins varieties you can use include:
How to Pick a Pumpkin
Following are some easy guidelines for picking pumpkins to carve:
Best Pumpkin Carving Tools
By choosing the best pumpkin carving tools to create your jack-o-lanterns, you’re more likely to succeed in designing the perfect Halloween décor. Here are the top tools for carving unique pumpkin designs.
Pumpkin Carving Tips and Tricks
Now that you know how to choose the perfect Halloween pumpkin for carving, here are some tips to get the job done!
How to Carve Pumpkins for Halloween
Ready to carve a jack-o-lantern? Here is how to carve your pumpkin for your Halloween decorations.
1. Choose the tools you need for your design. While a sharp knife is a must, you may also want to use some of the other instruments we mentioned previously to help you successfully execute your design.
2. Start at the bottom of the pumpkin. Rather than cutting a hole around the stem to remove the top, make one at the base of the pumpkin instead. (If you're using a real candle, then cut a hole in the top for ventilation.)
This way, you can place the pumpkin over the light, instead of having to reach inside the pumpkin to position the battery operated candle. Pro tip: With your paring knife, carve an indention for the LED tea light to sit comfortably.
3. Remove the pumpkin guts. Arguably the best part of carving a pumpkin, removing the insides is the time to conjure that messy kid you used to be. So roll up your sleeves, put on your game face and go for it. You can wear gloves for this step, if desired. We recommend using you hands first to remove the loose material. Then try one of the suggested tools from scraping out the excess.
4. Use a needle tool to trace your design onto the pumpkin. With your design taped to the pumpkin, use a thumbtack to establish an outline. When it comes to jack-o'-lanterns, staying inside the lines is a good thing — and will help prevent your freaky Frankenstein or cackling cat from becoming one terrifying blob.
5. Make thoughtful, strategic cuts. We suggest starting with the smallest parts of your design. The paring knife, which features a short, easy-to-control blade, is a great detailing knife. For the larger sections, we found that the filet knife, with its thin and flexible blade, was best.
6. Polish off your jack-o-lantern design. When you're finished cutting and all the pieces have been removed, it's time to add the finishing touches. Use your paring knife to carefully shave any ragged edges or remove stray guts.
Jack-O-Lantern Design Ideas
Need design ideas for your Halloween pumpkins? Here are just a few designs you can try whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pumpkin carving pro! Simply scroll through the slideshow to see them all.
How to Keep Your Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns Fresh
Unfortunately, jack-o-lanterns don’t last forever. If you plan decorate your front porch with carved gourds this Halloween, then be sure to follow this advice for keeping your pumpkins fresh longer.
If you enjoyed our post on how to carve Halloween pumpkins, then also be sure to check out tutorial on how to make a holiday charcuterie board.
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