Why We Carve Pumpkins at Halloween

Tip of the Week – Why We Carve Pumpkins at Halloween (and what to do if you don’t want to carve a pumpkin!)

Crafting plump, round pumpkins into Jack O’Lanterns is a Halloween staple in our corner of the world!  And a tradition that I’ve always viewed with trepidation – and who wouldn’t feel the same way?  Three small children, one large pumpkin and a giant sharp knife?  This combination would instill fear in the hearts of even the bravest souls – which is why the job has always fallen upon my kind hubby!

But what actually started this unusual tradition?  Dating back centuries, the Celtic Irish celebrated October 31st as the end of summer and the beginning of a new year.  That night was also believed to be the one night when the boundaries between the living and the dead were broken and deceased spirits could enter the bodies of the living.  In an effort to avoid those evil spirits, costumes were donned and Jack O’Lanterns with scary faces were carried.  Before arriving in America, the Irish carved Jack O’Lanterns from large turnips or beets, but the discovery of pumpkins in the U.S. offered a terrific improvement!

Fun Alternatives to Pumpkin Carving

And what if you love Halloween, but have no interest in carving a pumpkin?  Or share my fear of sharp knives?  I have two fun and quick answers to your dilemma!

Halloween Pumpkin Decorations

  • Pumpkin Tiaras – Dressed to “thrill” pumpkins can receive the tiara treatment from a pair of whimsical pumpkin crowns from Signals (Signals, Pumpkin Tiaras, $29.95)

Halloween Pumpkin Decorations

  • Halloween Metal Die Cuts - Spookier pumpkins can be dramatically decorated with black metal die cut figures from Lillian Vernon!  (Lillian Vernon, Black Metal Pumpkin Decorations -crows, witches, bats or cats, $6.98 or 2 for $4.98 each)

Whatever way you choose to embellish your family’s pumpkin, take a minute to realize just how far back this custom goes, along with its very creepy implications!  Happy Haunting!

Do you have a special way of decorating your pumpkins?  Please share!

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3 Comments On This Post

  1. Vicky from VickyandJen.com says:

    I’m also a non-carver! Here’s what I did with my son last year and it was a huge hit: Gave him washable markers & a damp sponge and let me decorate his pumpkin over and over. I let him use golf tees and a toy hammer / wooden mallet to pound into another pumpkin. It lasted about 2 weeks then it was time to say goodbye to poor mushy pumpkin! – Vicky from VickyandJen.com

  2. margie says:

    What if you have never carved a pumpkin and want to try it? Any suggestions/instructions? Are there good kits to buy?

  3. Roisin de Buitlear says:

    Thank you for sharing this information about the origins of pumpkin carving, in fact we never had pumpkins growing in Ireland until quite recently, and people used to carve turnips. Here is one from the national museum collection. We have a whole lot of food associated with Halloween here too, and Barm brack (Bairin Breac) Speckled Loaf of fruit packed bread made with tea and colcannon a mixture of mashed potato and Kurly Kale is still eaten by us on that night. We hide coins wrapped in aluminium foil in the potato.. its a great way to get kids to eat cabbage! The cake was also for divining the future and has a ring, and other items hidden in it. Each items means something different. At this time of year all over Ireland you can buy commercial cakes with rings hidden in them, but nothing is as good as your own.

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