Halloween pumpkins

Halloween is here!

October is the month of the Autumn season, full of warm colours, dry leaves and wool sweaters. In this month the cold season festivities start. The first one -one of the funniest- is Halloween, very loved by children and by now famous also in Italy despite of the scepticism of many. The “witches night” has a long history, that -differently from common beliefs- doesn’t come from America, but takes its roots from the Irish culture and the Celts. Some old Irish wives’ tales tell about Jack O’ Lantern. Jack, with his tortured soul, roamed the earth without a resting place, lighting his way with a hollowed turnip. The action of hollowing is associated with the name of this festivity, for this reason many scholars think that “Halloween” may take its name from the verb “to hollow”.


Why is the pumpkin the symbol of Halloween?

As mentioned above, the original Jack O’ lantern was not a pumpkin: ancient Celtic cultures in Ireland used to carve turnips on All Hollow’s Eve and place an ember in them, to ward off evil spirits.
According to tradition, pumpkins have replaced turnips since 1840, when the Irish immigrated to the new world. In America they couldn’t find big turnips to hollow out. Quickly they discovered pumpkins, that were bigger and easier to come by and carve. Since that moment, during the night between October 31st and November 1st it has been the tradition to carve pumpkins and to light them with a candle, to tell Jack’s last soul there is no place for him.

According to some scholars, the origins of Halloween are much older: Halloween seems connected to the Celtic festival of Samhaim, that marks the end of the harvest season. Halloween is a secular holiday that later has come in opposition to the religious holiday on November 1st. The association with death seems to come much later in time, as can be seen by the use of scary masks and gruesome decorations. According to history, the custom to hollow out turnips and light them is connected to an old Irish ritual, which remembered the souls in Purgatory. The typical colours of Halloween are black, dark purple and orange.


Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, that comes from the tradition of begging when poor people asked for “mercy on all Christian souls for a soul-cake” during November 1st.

Symbolically pumpkins -along with scary disguises, masks and decorations- depict Halloween more than anything in the world, but to be able to carve and scoop them out, without any mistakes could be very complicated. Don’t improvise and follow our guide to make the perfect Jack O’ Lantern!



10 tips to make a perfect Jack O’ Lantern

Do you know how to make a Jack O’ Lantern? Do you want to make one like that of the American TV series? Follow our tips!

  1. Choose the right-sized pumpkin: buy a big and rounded pumpkin. Preferably the medium-sized variety, and avoid the little ones, because they are very difficult to carve - although they are cute and unusual. Don’t buy your pumpkins prematurely because they will rot.
  2. Choose the right pumpkin: there are many varieties of pumpkins, but there is only one right way to choose a good Jack O’ Lantern. Remember, that ripe pumpkins with less guts on the inside make them easier to clean. Try to choose a pumpkin without any scratches, bruises or dark spots. Our tip is to tap it , as you do with watermelons. When you tap it, you should hear a hollow sound, as if it was empty. This means that the pumpkin is ripe and you can carve it. Don’t worry if it is a little dirty, you can clean it with a towel at home.
  3. Set up your workplace:
    Do you know what tools you need to carve a pumpkin? We will help you and provide you with a list of the right tools. All you will need is right in your kitchen. Here is what you will need to make the perfect Jack O’ Lantern for the perfect scariest Halloween.
    Now you are ready to make the perfect Jack O’ Lantern, like those shown in American movies. It’s time to cut out the lid and scoop out the inside of your pumpkin.
    • a sharpie or a black permanent marker: you will need it for drawing your design onto the pumpkin, that later you will carve;
    • a serrated knife: it’s better than a normal one (Keep away from children)
    • a sturdy table or something else you can clean easily, because it will get messy and dirty.
    • a ladle to hollow out the pumpkin guts and spoons to clean the rest of the pumpkin goo. Don’t throw away the guts, you can use it to make muffins, soups and pies;
    • a kitchen towel to clean your hands;
    • a chisel or an x-acto knife to outline the details with precision, like the eyes, nose, mouth and teeth, with safety and control;
    • drawing tips: if you don’t know how to draw on your pumpkin and you aren’t an expert in using a marker and pencil, you can simply, download and print photos or Halloween pictures, and choose which “face” you want to give your Jack O’ Lantern. Type on Google “template for Jack O’ Lantern” and there you have it!
    • a tea light candle, that you will insert in your pumpkin once it is ready. Choose a short and balanced one, and you will also need a foil to place at the bottom of your pumpkin.

      Now you are ready to make the perfect Jack O’ Lantern, like those shown in American movies. It’s time to cut out the lid and scoop out the inside of your pumpkin.
  4. Outline your design: using the permanent marker, draw or use the template you have printed to draw the eyes, a nose and a toothy grin for your Jack O’ Lantern face; then, outline and cut out a circle around the pumpkin stem. This part will become the “hat” of your pumpkin and the hole you will need to scoop out inside the guts and seeds of your pumpkin.
  5. Use a serrated knife to cut along the outline of your pumpkin lid. Make sure you slice the skin without cutting the stem. Be careful because the cut part will become the hat of your Jack O’ Lantern.
  6. Now, remove the pumpkin guts and seeds. If you don’t know how to scoop out the pumpkin, don’t worry, it’s very easy. Use a ladle and clean out the inside of the pumpkin until no stringy bits remain. For the little parts use a spoon.
  7. Place the seeds and the guts in a bowl, do not throw them away, you can use them to prepare cakes, risotto, soups and Halloween recipes. The seeds can also be used in traditional recipes: you can roast them in the oven at a low temperature without salt and eat them as a snack at your Halloween party. Remember that your pumpkin is edible, but you have to remove the guts, before using it for a Halloween decoration. The pumpkin isn’t edible once you realize your lantern, putting it outside under the effects of the weather. Don’t eat your Jack O’ Lantern after Halloween.
  8. Cut out the face: make straight cuts into your pumpkin along the lines of your design- eyes, nose, mouth and teeth- removing the cut pieces. You can use a precision knife to do this, which you can find in common art shops. Do you still remember him? It’s him, he’s back: Jack O’ Lantern!
  9. Clean up the details: go back in and scrape out any stringy pieces or jagged lines with the precision knife. You can also scrape off the marker lines though they won’t be visible in the darkness of the most scariest night!
  10. Insert a tea light candle in the bottom of your pumpkin and use a long match to light it. Choose a well balanced candle or buy a LED light, if it makes you feel safer. Make sure your pumpkin sits flat, to prevent the falling of the candle. Replace the lid and wait to see which part of your pumpkin heats the most . At this point  make a hole, this will act as a chimney for your pumpkin in order for it not to burn and smell bad.


How to dry a carved hollowed pumpkin

After hollowing a fresh pumpkin, you can dry it, as long as you hollowed it adequately removing its guts and seeds. The hollowed pumpkin can last depending on the weather conditions: dehydration, moisture and mold which are the main causes of the rotting process. A solution that can be used is by soaking it in a large bin, filled with cold water or you can keep it in the fridge – without freezing it- with a constant and dry temperature. Keep away from sunlight! Some antifungal products specific for storing your Jack O’ Lantern are available at your local market.  


Can you store your Jack O’ Lantern pumpkin?

There are many tips to save your Jack O’ Lantern until next year. First of all, keep your hollowed pumpkin away from sunlight and high temperatures, storing it in a cool and dry place -at a constant temperature- like the cellar or the fridge. Use antifungal products, or soak it in a dilution of household bleach in water.


List of things you can use to decorate your pumpkin for Halloween

It isn’t a single standard of self-made Jack O’ Lantern: beyond the traditional face you can decorate your pumpkin as you wish, with objects, glitter, ribbons and many other things. Here is a detailed list of ideas and items you can use to customize your pumpkin in so many fun ways:

  • Spiders
  • Nets
  • Paper or velvet back bats
  • Black buttons
  • Nails
  • Autumnal leaves
  • Chalkboard paint: you can paint a chalkboard pumpkin and use orange chalks to write your names
  • Dark-coloured bows and ribbons
  • Incision effects, made with markers or glitter


What can you do with the pumpkins guts?

Don’t waste the rests of your hollowed pumpkin, use them in cooking snack or perfect dishes for your Halloween dinner! If you have children, you can make them happy preparing a coloured pumpkin pie decorated with chocolate spiders and bats, or pumpkin muffins. Pumpkins, as other typical autumnal fruits, are perfect to be used for savoury dishes (soups, potato gnocchi and fettuccine pasta). Your party will be perfect with the pumpkins cupcakes at the centre of your table!


The right music for your Halloween party

Halloween has influenced the west world: perhaps for its gothic appeal or because it celebrates the most innermost fears of humanity, or for the fearful atmosphere of October 31st made of monsters, witches, ghosts and zombies. It has become a social imaginary that has created a business, involving music, cinemas, arts and entertainment for adults and children. If you are organizing a Halloween party and you need music inspiration , these songs are a must in your Halloween Playlist. Have a look at these tips:

  1. Michael Jackson’s Thriller
  2. The Addams Family Theme song
  3. Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbusters
  4. This is Halloween ( “Nightmare before Christmas” soundtrack, will be perfect for your Halloween party)
  5. Bobby Pickett’s Monster Mash


5 films to watch on Halloween night

On Halloween it’s obligated that you watch horror films all together with family and/or friends, even amongst also children. Here is a list of ideas of films to watch on the night of October 31st:


5 Halloween films for children

  1. Disney’s Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton
  2. Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, is a 2018 horror comedy film directed by Ari Sandel
  3. Small foot: the yeti film was released on September 28th 2018
  4. Casper, a perfect cult movie for Halloween
  5. Hotel Transylvania, a 3D computer animated comedy film


5 horror Halloween films for all-ages

  1. Tim Burton’s Nightmare before Christmas
  2. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride
  3. Sleepy Hollow, with Johnny Depp
  4. Coraline a stop-motion dark fantasy horror film
  5. Trick’r treat directed by Michael Dougherty (this is really scaring!)


5 Netflix TV series perfect for Halloween

If you have a fully day for horror TV series, here is a list:

  1. Stranger Things
  2. Bates Motel
  3. Dexter
  4. A series of unfortunate events
  5. Scream


5 Netflix movies for Halloween

Will you be organizing a scary night with your friends? Here is a list of Netflix horror movies, (not suitable for children.)

  1. Malevolent
  2. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
  3. Veronica
  4. Carrie
  5. Dawn of the Dead


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