A Cut Above: Scary Good Pumpkin-Carving Tips

Originally published in American Lifestyle Magazine

Carving pumpkins has been a longtime tradition in America, but its origin is actually credited to a centuries-old Irish folktale.

As the legend goes, an unsavory Irishman named Stingy Jack trapped the devil and then struck a deal that the devil wouldn’t take his soul. However, this plan backfired after he passed—heaven wouldn’t take him because of his devious life, and, per his earlier deal, neither would hell, so Stingy Jack was destined to wander the earth forever. The devil gave his nemesis an ember for light, and Jack put it in a carved-out turnip to use as a lantern. Hence, Jack of the Lantern, or, as it’s now commonly known, the jack-o’-lantern.

To keep Stingy Jack and other evil spirits at bay, Irish people took to putting candles in carved-out turnips or potatoes. This practice spread to Scotland and England (with the latter using beets) and, later, to America—where the price, size, and availability of pumpkins made them a natural choice for keeping the tradition alive.

Today, most Americans probably have never heard of Stingy Jack and only know the jack-o’-lantern as a fun decoration. The downsides of this decoration, however, are that pumpkins can be difficult to carve, they tend to be messy, and they can be a pain to maintain.

But fear not! We’ve provided seven simple tips to make your pumpkin-carving experience easier—and help you enjoy your masterpiece to the fullest!

Bottoms up!

Want to make lighting your pumpkin super easy? Then consider cutting your opening in the bottom instead of the top. Simply lift it up, place a lit candle on the ground, and then carefully put the pumpkin back over it.

A seed solution.

If you’ve experienced the frustration of trying to get all the seeds and stringy mess out of your pumpkin, then you’ve surely thought that there has to be an easier way. There is: use a metal ice cream scoop, which will help you get more done with less effort.

Make your mark.

Utilize dry-erase markers. Unlike other writing utensils, they won’t harm your pumpkin; and, unlike permanent markers or pen ink, the ink from these markers can be removed quickly and effortlessly with a simple baby wipe.

Don’t let it dry up.

After carving your pumpkin, rub petroleum jelly on the edges to help it from drying out and getting moldy. You can also refrigerate it when not in use to keep it as cool as possible.

‘Pick your pumpkin.

If you cut off too much pumpkin, don’t despair. Just reconnect the pieces with a toothpick, which is an easy-to-conceal way of providing support to the connected pieces.

Spice it up.

Shaking cinnamon onto your pumpkin adds a wonderful autumn-like aroma. As a bonus, cinnamon’s strong scent has been known to repel animals such as squirrels.

Stencil for success.

There’s no need to stick with the usual homemade triangle eyes and ordinary smile for your pumpkin. Get creative with your carving by using a fun template—and watch your jack-o’-lantern scare up lots of compliments in your neighborhood!

About Kevin

Councilmember - City of Oakley, Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit, Transplan, San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority and RD 2137, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction
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