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How to Carve a Pumpkin for Halloween the Traditional Way

Published by Sachiko Shike

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Pumpkin carving time is around the corner, and kids and adults alike look forward to this age-old tradition every Halloween season. If you are one who is a little hesitant or fearful of carving your first pumpkin, you have come to the right place. I will provide all the information and tools you need to be successful at carving your own pumpkin this Halloween.

How to choose your pumpkin?

It is important to plan what type of design you want to carve on the pumpkin before purchasing it. This will determine what size pumpkin you will need. For example, small pumpkins are good for traditional designs such as just eyes, nose, and a smile or frown on the pumpkin. These are easy and fast and you can do a lot of them to scatter around or perhaps line your walkway. Medium pumpkins are better for using bought stencils, and large pumpkins are best for elaborate designed pumpkins to use as a grand centerpiece on the table or on a porch.

Choose a pumpkin that is uniformly orange with no nicks or cuts, or bruises on it. Get a pumpkin that has a flat side, so when you are finished carving, it will sit up nicely and not roll. Never pick it up by the stem as it may break, and be careful not to drop or bruise it on the way home.

If you are a novice at pumpkin carving, I recommend trying several small pumpkins with traditional faces carved on them. Then as you become used to using the carving tools and become more confident move on to the medium and large later.

What tools will you need?

You can purchase carving kits especially for carving pumpkins at Target, Wal-Mart, or any craft store in your area. If you do not want to go that route, you probably have everything you need in your kitchen to carve a pumpkin the traditional way, free hand. To get started, you will need a large spoon, or ice cream scoop, a thin bladed sharp knife, and some newspaper. Make sure you are very careful while using the knife and never let children do the cutting. Let them help later with the cleaning out the pumpkin or drawing on the face.

Begin carving

Using the thin bladed knife, cut out a 5 or 6 sided hole around the stem. Angle your knife so that the hole and lid will resemble a cone shape. Cut it about 2/3 of the pumpkin so you have room to use the large spoon or scoop to remove the inside of the pumpkin. Remove all the insides with the spoon or with your hands. Next, pick out the best side of the pumpkin to carve. Use a crayon or marker to draw a face you want to cut out. Cut out each piece individually, taking your time and following the lines you’ve drawn. When you are through cutting, gently push out each piece to view your handiwork!

Illuminating the pumpkin

If you want to light up the pumpkin, place a clear glass votive holder, with a plain white votive candle, inside on the bottom of the pumpkin. It is best to place the pumpkin where you are going to leave it before placing and lighting the candle inside.

Life span of your pumpkin

Depending on the weather conditions in your area during October, your pumpkin may only last a week at most. Pumpkins become shriveled because of the lack of moisture. One way to help preserve your pumpkin put a light coating of petroleum jelly on the inside of the pumpkin and especially around the areas of the face, you cut out. You can use your fingers to coat around the cut out places, and use your hands or a paper towel with jelly on it to coat the inside of the pumpkin.It is best to carve your pumpkin only 1 or 2 days before Halloween, and move the pumpkin to a shaded place during the day to slow down decomposition.

You can find many places online that offer free pumpkin patterns. See my sources for some free patterns.



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