One of the time-honored traditions of Halloween is pumpkin carving. Next to decorating your house with goblins and ghouls and witches and demons, along with the crux of Halloween – trick-or-treating – pumpkin carving has cemented its status as one of the most important traditions.
The pumpkin carving tradition began in Ireland when people would carve demonic faces out of turnips to frighten away Stingy Jack’s wandering soul (Stingy Jack is said to have tricked the Devil for his own monetary gain, and he was sentenced to roam the earth for all eternity). Irish immigrants who moved to the United States would replace the turnip with the pumpkin.
Jack-o’-lanterns became associated with Halloween when All Hallows’ Eve was moved to October 31 after the Roman Catholic Church moved All Saints’ Day to November 1 in 8th century CE. Traditions from the Celtic festival Samhain remained, including the folklore about Stingy Jack.
Pumpkin carving is an art. The first step is to find the perfect pumpkin.
Picking a Pumpkin
- Look for a pumpkin that has a deep orange color.
- Knock on the pumpkin to determine if it is hollow. A hollow pumpkin means that it is ripe.
- Make sure the bottom is not soft and mushy. The bottom should also be flat.
- Make sure that the stem is firm and secure.
- Avoid bruised pumpkins.
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Carving the Pumpkin
Now that you have the right pumpkin, it is time to carve. Here are some tips for you to follow, which will smooth out the carving process.
- Carve the hole. You do not have to carve the top. You can hollow out the back, as well. However, if you are placing a candle within, you do need to hollow out the top. When carving the top, tip the knife towards the center to create a shelf.
- Outline the face first. Use a washable marker to outline the face that you wish to carve. Once you are happy with the outline, finish up with a permanent marker.
- For carving, using a paring knife or a steak knife with a non-serrated blade will work perfectly. You can also use a standard jigsaw blade.
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