Every October, carved pumpkins appear as a festive fall decoration. The ghoulish glow of jack-o’- lanterns on Halloween night light the way like a beacon, inviting trick-or-treaters to come collect sweet treats. Jack-o’-lanterns have been around for centuries, but why do we carve pumpkins?
Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America and it became a part of Halloween festivities. The people of Ireland have a legend of a drunken farmer who made a deal with the devil that led to him being turned back at both the gates of heaven and hell at the time of his death. Forced to remain in purgatory, Jack made a lantern from a plant to light his path.
According to the legend, Jack used a turnip with a lump of burning coal to guide his lost soul. Every Halloween, communities in Ireland created their own turnip lamps to scare him and other spirits away. Several centuries later, the legend lives on.
The tradition switched from turnips to pumpkins when Irish immigrants found that there are more pumpkins than turnips in the United States.
In order to carve your own jack-o’-lantern, you will need:
- Votive candles
- Felt-tip pens or pencils
- Chef’s knives or pumpkin-carving sets
- Votive candle holders
- Large spoon
Follow these nine easy steps for pumpkin carving found at eHow.com:
- Select a fresh pumpkin.
- Draw a circle or hexagon on top of the pumpkin in preparation for making an opening large enough for your hand to reach through.
- Cut through the stem end of the pumpkin along your outline with a sharp knife or pumpkin-carving tool. Use a back-and-forth slicing motion to cut through the thick, tough skin.
- Remove the stem end, which will act as a cap, making sure you scrape off any seeds or pulp.
- Use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp from inside the pumpkin. Hold the spoon by its bowl to get extra leverage while scooping.
- Draw a pattern for the face on the clean pumpkin with a felt-tip pen, or scribe the lines into the skin using a pencil. Be sure to make the eyes, nose and mouth large enough; you’ll have a hard time cutting out tiny features when you’re using a big knife blade to saw through tough skin.
- Follow your pattern as you cut all the way through the pumpkin.
- Push the cut-out features gently from the inside of the pumpkin and discard the pieces.
- Place a votive candle inside the pumpkin to create an eerie glow.