Due to the lack of pumpkins in the Philippines, I have NEVER done a pumpkin carving before for Halloween. (Okay, sometimes I do see pumpkins in the grocery stores, but it’s sooooo rare. Most of the time they’re fake pumpkins anyways or that they are just crazy expensive!) That’s why you could imagine how happy I was when Jonas and his friends invited me over for a pumpkin carving ‘feast’!
With guidance from Raf & Ben—the pompoen maestros—I managed to make a Jack-o’-lantern for myself! As you can see from the image above, I carved out Jack Skellington’s face from ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ and I’m very happy with how it turned out. ♥ So please let me do the pleasure of imparting the carving knowledge (lol) through this post.
How to make a Jack-o-Lantern
Go choose and get a pumpkin
Well hello, Captain Obvious! But basically, you have to choose a good pumpkin gourd. It’s always best to pick a healthy one: it should be free of cuts & bruises, has a consistent color all around, and ripe (if you knock on it, you should hear a hollow sound). Secondly, pick the right size: a larger one means more work, so I recommend that you get a small or medium-sized pumpkin. Just make sure it’s not too small or flat that it would be impossible to work yourself inside. And lastly, take note of your timing: most pumpkins rot after a week, so buy one about a week or less before Halloween.
Once you have the pumpkin you desire, prepare your working area! Lay out a cover on the table to quickly clean things after everything’s finished, also ready the knives, and keep bowls close (where you will put the pumpkin innards later on)..
Cut open the top to make a lid
Most people do a circle for this, but making a shape that has corners is better so that the act of putting the lid back on would be a breeze! So of course you first get a knife that could do the job of carving this out: it’s best to have a serrated bread knife, but I used a big straight-edged knife for this and it did the job fairly well (though it did require a lot of force; just remember to be careful!) After you finish carving it out, cut off the excess pumpkin innards on the lid; you can slice away through the skin to make it cleaner.
TIP: Don’t knife through in a straight/vertical manner, it’s best to position the knife in an angle when piercing through the skin. In this way, the lid won’t fall in to the center when placed back in..
Remove the filling and start scraping
You can use your hands first to pull out the seeds and stringy filling from the inside, and then use a large spoon to start scraping the inside clean. It’s best to separate the seeds and the scraped innards that you’ve made—so that the seeds: you can roast (or plant) and the scraped innards: you can make a soup for! It’s important that you make the inside clean so that it won’t rot away so quickly.
Find a jack-o’-lantern design and start carving
There are a LOT of designs online so start browsing to find a ‘face’ that you would want to have on your pumpkin. Some websites even offer templates that you can paste on your pumpkin to serve as a guide; however, you can go gung-ho like me and just draw the design yourself. You can use either a ballpen or a marker to draw the face (it can be easily wiped off later on with tissue or water). For this carving, I used a smaller knife so that I can have more control, besides, it was especially helpful for making small circles or shapes. (If you have pumpkin carving tools; the better of course! But simple kitchen knives can already help. Just be careful as always, and take your time.)
TIP: To make the carving easier, you can scrape more and ‘thin’ the wall of the pumpkin. And if for instance you took off a chunk by mistake, you can use a toothpick to attach it back to the pumpkin..
Light up your pumpkin!
You can use a flashlight, LED light, or a tea candle! We used candles for our pumpkins—some people cut the bottom open to place the candle in, but if you have an opening that’s large enough to fit your hand in, then I think there’s no need to open the bottom. Just make sure that the pumpkin has enough ventilation for the candle; if for instance your design doesn’t have too many holes/openings, just keep the lid slightly open.
Now to demonstrate our group’s work! Here it was! (Jonas’ work is the ghost pumpkin and he did a really good job with it; we ALL did! The others were Ben [the Welcome pumpkin], Raf [Clown], Katrijn [Flower], and Kristof [Minion]).
I hope this helped! I had lots of fun making this and you bet that I would definitely do it again next year! It actually took a while and even hurt my arms a bit (lol) but I didn’t mind… It was all worth it!
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I am Aileen Adalid. At 21, I quit my corporate job in the Philippines to travel the world. Today, I am a digital nomad (entrepreneur & travel writer) living a sustainable travel lifestyle.
My mission? To show you how it is absolutely possible to create a life of travel, and I will help you achieve that through my detailed travel guides, resources, and tips!
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