Some people are into delicately carving elaborate designs into hollowed out pumpkins to create the seasonal exterior lamp we call a “Jack-O-Lantern.

rfierce dinosaur jack-o-lanternWhile these can be spooky in the dark, or beautiful works of art, I’m old fashioned. For me, the traditional jack-o-lantern wears a face. That’s why we call it “Jack.”

If you’ve ever tried to light a candle out of doors, you probably understand that a lantern shelters the flame from the wind that would otherwise extinguish it. Glass was at a premium in Canadian pioneer days, but pumpkins were thick on the ground.  Since bringing in the harvest made for long days, hollowing out these large squash plants made a simple lantern that could be use out of doors when night starts falling early in the autumn months.

Hallowe’en has long been my favourite holiday, and we always had plenty of pumpkins to carve from the garden.   We used to have great fun carving our scary faces into our pumpkins free style.  These days many people buy permanent jack-o-lantern substitutes made of ceramic, glass or metal.  My preference is always to make my own.

Make A Jack-O-Lantern

1. Cut open the pumpkin,

traditionally by cutting a circle around the stem, which then forms the handle of what will become your jack-o-lantern’s lid.   For more artistic designs, often people avoid having the light escape around the edges of the lid by cutting the bottom out of the pumpkin.  Depending on your pumpkin’s shape, this can provide more stability to a jack-o-lantern that will stay in one place.  If there is any possibility that you will want to reposition your pumpkin once it’s lit, it is best to put the hole at the top.

pumpkin guts... goopy strings and seeds2. Scoop out the pumpkin guts

using a large spoon.  This is a messy job, so I scoop out the seeds and the strings into a metal mixing bowl, being careful to scrape the interior sides of the pumpkin smooth.  The seeds can be baked in the oven later.
drawn on pattern of a face on the pumpkin3. Draw on the face

(or whatever design you plan to use) using pen or marker.  You will cut away the drawing as you cut out your pattern.   Note: The “child safe” pumpkin carving tool (pictured above) was not very good.
carving out a face in a pumpkin4.  Cut Out The Face or design.

If the piece you remove is large, you can do it incrementally.   If your child is old enough to carve a pumpkin, s/he is probably old enough to use a paring knife.  As you can see, this jack-o-lantern was opened and emptied from the bottom.
jack-o-lantern lit with a glowstickGlowstick Jack-O-Lantern . . .

If you plan to place your jack-o-lantern along the path where trick-or-treaters — who often wear flowing and/or flamable costumes are likely to walk, you might want to consider using a glowstick rather than a candle in your jack-o-lantern.

Jack-o-lantern lit with a candleCandle lit Jack-O-Lantern . . .

Especially if you plan on using a candle to light your jack-lantern, remember that it can be a fire hazard, so:

  1. don’t carve the pumpkin a week before so it dry out (I do it on the day)
  2. ensure that the interior walls are scraped clean of all the pumpkin strings
  3. don’t use a candle with a flame that burns high enough to touch the roof or walls of the jack-o-lantern

Tea lights — the small candles used to keep a teapot warm — are a good choice.

Have a safe and happy Hallowe’en.

post script

First,  I’ve changed my weekly blog posting day from Saturday to Sunday.

This article needed some photos I didn’t heave, so I found these licensed to share photos on flicker:

  1. fierce dinosaur by SamanthaChapnick
    Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License and
  2. pumpkin guts by Care_SMC
    Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License