Don’t forget about the pumpkin this Halloween

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Get carving before Saturday (Photo by Free Flower via Flickr)

Get carving before Saturday (Photo by Free Flower via Flickr)

The week is winding down and Halloween is slowly approaching.  Everyone is getting their costumes together, planning parties, loading up on Halloween candy for the kiddies and sliding some tricks up their sleeves.  As the excitement and anticipation built up for this spooky, wild and fun night, Halloween can’t be complete without the ever so classic Jack-O-Lantern sitting on the porch step.  These gutted and candle lit carved pumpkins have been a standing symbol of Halloween for centuries.

There are many stories and traditions following pumpkins during the Halloween season. The story of Stingy Jack begins in Ireland hundreds of years ago with a greedy man always looked to do whatever he could to get his hands on what he wanted.  Stingy Jack was such a grumpy, mean-spirited man that one day he encountered the Devil.

The next part of the story has split into different paths, but they all lead to the same ending. Basically, Stingy Jack tricks the Devil and corners him. He surrounds the Devil with holy crosses and strikes a bargain with him: the Devil goes free if he gets to keep his soul.  The Devil agrees and Stingy Jack releases him. However after that dirty act, God decides he didn’t want Stingy Jack when he died. Being banned from Heaven, and wanting to stay away from eternal hell, he is cursed to wander the earth in darkness.

Stingy Jack makes a deal with the Devil (Photo by Esparta via Flickr)

Stingy Jack makes a deal with the Devil (Photo by Esparta via Flickr)

The Devil tosses Stingy Jack an eternal flame, and he places it in a turnip cut open to help give light as he spent an eternity in darkness.

Throughout the years, Stingy Jack became referred to as Jack ‘o Lantern and as the story spread throughout Ireland, people started to carve pumpkins, turnips, potatoes and other vegetables of the sort to light them up and ward away Jack and other evil spirits.

You can take a part in keeping the Jack ‘o Lantern tradition alive and get into the Halloween spirit this season.

The best part about carving pumpkins is that it is open to anyone, any age, with little to no artistic ability.  In the past few years, I must admit I have seen some gnarly carvings, but it doesn’t mean the traditional pumpkin is lost. Create some goofy eyes, crooked teeth, maybe some eyebrows and that bad boy is ready for a candle.

Add new shape and dimension (Photo by James Ellsworth via Flickr)

Add new shape and dimension (Photo by James Ellsworth via Flickr)

A new technique had risen recently that adds more dimension to the crafty art.  Pumpkin peeling creates more layers and allows different intensities of light to shine through.  Since pumpkins are 90 percent water, they can create awesome lighting effects if carved properly.

The best tools for pealing the outside of the pumpkin to create layers are clay loop tools.  These tools are small, fairly sharp blades, bent into curved shapes which can be used to peel away larger areas of the skin and flesh of the pumpkin more easily.  They can run between $3 and $7 individually or many places sell sets for as little as $15. The best bet to purchase these tools is at craft stores like Michaels.

In order to help preserve all the hard work that goes into carving pumpkins, there are extra steps that can be taken in order to see a lighted Frankenstein last through Halloween.

  • Wash any tools used to carve the pumpkin with antibacterial soap first. This helps to extend the life of the pumpkin.
  • If there are going to be any complex patterns involved, it’s best to print out the picture on transferrable paper or use grease pencil to create a design freehand.
  • Instead of using a real candle, buy the small battery operated tea lights.  They help keep the pumpkin from cooking on the inside, and it’s much safer in case the “flame” is left burning.  There is no worry about burning the house down.
  • Spraying Lysol or rubbing small amounts of Vaseline on the carved fresh skin of the pumpkin will help keep germs from rotting the pumpkin into an orangey pulp.
  • Obviously you want to keep the pumpkin in a cool dark place, so save the display until the sun goes down.
  • When not in use, it’s a good idea to wrap the pumpkin with a plastic grocery bag or store it in the fridge.

Don’t let this Halloween pass by without a pumpkin proudly displayed.  They’re fun to carve and help keep the spirit of Halloween alive. Check out these crazy pumpkin carvings, and set out to be creative!

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