How to make a Jack-o’-lantern in six easy steps

Fancy carving a pumpkin for Halloween? You'll find these large gourds at food stores - but they aren't cheap, so you don't want to mess it up. Follow these tips

28 October 2020 - 07:00
By hilary biller AND Hilary Biller
Halloween pumpkins are now being stocked by many food stores in SA.
Image: 123RF/dolgachov Halloween pumpkins are now being stocked by many food stores in SA.

Jack-o’-lanterns were originally made in ancient Ireland and Scotland, where faces were carved into turnips to scare away the roaming ghosts and spirits of All Hallows’ Eve.

Brought to America by Irish immigrants, the ritual continued, using local pumpkins — the perfect vegetable for the job.

Such is the popularity that there are farmers who grow pumpkins specially for Halloween.

Over the past few years, more and more South African have embraced the idea of celebrating this holiday on October 31, which means you're now likely to spot pumpkins at local food stores.

These have an exceptionally tough outer skin, so if you fancy carving one into a Jack-o’-lantern you’ll need a really sharp knife or hacksaw and a Stanley knife, available from a stationery/art shop.

As these are very sharp tools, the job is best done by an adult, or with adult supervision.

Nothing says Halloween quite like a glowing Jack-o'-lantern.
Image: 123RF/windsurfer62 Nothing says Halloween quite like a glowing Jack-o'-lantern.

Here's how to go about it:

1. Choose a smooth, symmetrical pumpkin.

2. Make a template of the design you want to carve into it. You'll find many innovative ideas on Pinterest.

3. Cut a lid on the top of the pumpkin so you can hollow it out. Use a large spoon with a sharp edge or a melon baller to scrape out the seeds (save these to toast later) and the excess flesh (save this for cooking).

4. Attach the template to the pumpkin with pins and mark out the design with a Stanley knife, cutting through the template and into the pumpkin skin.

5. Remove the template and carefully cut out the shapes.

6. Traditionally, a candle or Christmas lights are placed in the centre of the pumpkin to illuminate the cut-out and create a spooky effect. Stand the candle in a glass jar, secured to the base of the pumpkin — this is most easily done with Prestik. Or use battery-operated Christmas lights secured around a glass jar in the base of the pumpkin.