As the weather chills and the leaves shift from green to orange and
brown, there's one more thing that belongs to fall that you begin to see everywhere.
Jack O'Lanterns are one of the most popular Halloween-time decorations, and
whether you decide to carve your own pumpkin or you like to have ceramic pre-formed Jack O'Lanterns, it's a good bet that
yours and every other porch in your neighborhood will be dotted with familiar, orange spooky and silly faces.
For some people, carving Jack O'Lanterns is a huge part of Halloween, and
the first step to making a great Jack O'Lantern is to pick out the perfect pumpkin to start with. The
first step on the path to making the perfect Jack O'Lantern is to take your family out pumpkin picking.
This is a great way to spend a few hours and really get into the spirit of
Halloween decorating. Many pumpkin patches offer fun activities like hay rides for people getting their pumpkins from the
field, and also sometimes offer amenities such as hot cider and treats for kids. Picking out a pumpkin farm that offers experiences
like this can turn a regular pumpkin picking trip into a fun family adventure.
Once you get your pumpkin home, you can either start thinking about carving
it right away or you can use the pumpkin as is for decorating until Halloween gets closer. This will give the pumpkin a slightly
longer shelf life because, once it's cut, it will start to decay.
If you decide to hold onto the pumpkin in one piece for a while and use it
for decoration, you can have some fun with markers or colored paints to draw faces on the pumpkin until you decide to carve
When you are ready to carve your pumpkin, make sure that you have plenty
of old newspaper or a similar barrier material you can put on your cutting surface to make cleanup easier. You also want to
make sure you have a few sharp tools to cut with plus a candle or small light for inside your pumpkin. Around
Halloween, many stores will likely have kits for carving pumpkins if you don't already have these things on hand.
First, take some time to draw out the face of the Jack O'Lantern. You can
draw this in freehand or find templates in stores or online that will give you some ideas or complete designs to use. Before
getting to the cutting, you will need to cut a section from the top so that you can remove it and empty out the “guts”
If you have a carving kit, you can use the scoop provided to remove the stringy
bits, but in any case a large spoon (or an ice cream scoop!) will work fine. Once removed, you can bake the seeds with a little
bit of seasoning salt on them for a tasty treat when you've finished carving!
Next comes the fun part, actually carving the pumpkin! You can make it a
spooky Jack O'Lantern or give it a silly face -- the end result isn't as important as having fun with the process. If
your kids are carving pumpkins, be sure that that you help them handle the sharp knife while cutting or even just have
them draw the face on it and cut it yourself.
Other options include carving a Halloween message or carving a scene into
your Jack O'Lantern -- the possibilities are endless! When you're done, just put your candle or light into the hollowed
center, light it or turn it on, replace the top, and enjoy your home-made Halloween decoration!