By Danielle Debley
While traditional pumpkin carving is always a fun fall activity, there are so many alternatives to do with these great gourds. Take a look at a few of these ideas and maybe start a new tradition.
If you hate the feeling of pumpkin guts all over your hands, try a new way of decorating without having to crack it open.
Use Painter’s Tape. For an alternative décor option, apply painters tape to your pumpkin in whatever pattern you’d like. Go spooky by adding cobwebs, or chic with a chevron layout. Choose a colored spray paint and go to work. Remove your tape and voila! A much less messy, but equally as creative, autumn masterpiece.
Break Out the Sharpies. This is a great one for college roomies who need a quick and clean decorative activity. Buy a few small to medium sized pumpkins (white pumpkins work best for this) and a pack of sharpies. Have fun choosing different patterns and spooky elements to add. Work on your calligraphy by adding a few seasonal phrases!
Pushpins Work in a Pinch. Another quick way to glam up your pumpkin is to get some colorful or metallic pushpins and stick them in the pumpkin (again, white pumpkins work best). It adds a fun, modern feel to your décor and can be done in less than five minutes.
Fun Pumpkin Activities for Kids
While carving a face or scene into a pumpkin is fun, here are a few more creative ideas to put that pumpkin to use.
Make a Diorama. Cut a large opening into the side of your pumpkin and hollow it out. Using miniature items and even some fairy lights, create your own fantastical scene right inside the gourd. Whether it’s a scary setup for Halloween, or full of seasonal scenery, your children will be sure to love creating their own little world.
Create Pumpkin Snowmen. Recycle your pumpkins for a cute activity with the family. Save some pumpkins after fall ends and buy white spray paint. Stack the pumpkins to create a snowman shape, using hot glue to secure them. After you’ve painted your creation, have fun searching for household items to make the face and add accessories. Your pumpkins can last through the winter, or if you’re worried you can always use plastic ones.
Pumpkin Catapults! For older kids, teach them a lesson in physics with this homemade catapult. Go to www.stormthecastle.com. for step-by-step instructions on how to create your very own machine. Make sure you have enough space to launch your pumpkins to the sky!
Household Hacks and Eco-Friendly Ideas
Here are a few ideas on how to use pumpkins inside and outside of the house after you’re done using them as decorations.
Relax with a Pumpkin Face Mask. With only three ingredients you can make your own face mask and bask in all the glory of fall. Here’s how: You’ll need 2 Tbsp. of organic canned pumpkin puree or 1 small pumpkin, 1/2 tsp. organic honey, and 1/2 tsp. milk (skim – can substitute soy or almond). If using a fresh pumpkin or leftovers from a carved Jack O’Lantern, scrape the insides and remove the seeds. Beat the insides to a creamy pulp and mix with honey and milk. That’s it! Apply and wait 20 minutes before washing off with warm water and applying moisturizer after.
Prepare Pumpkin Serving Bowls. A small hollowed out pumpkin can save you some dishwashing and add a unique piece to your next dinner party. Make sure to find small, round pumpkins that can sit flat on their own. If there’s any trouble, just cut the bottom to allow it to rest flat. Scoop out the insides to create a smooth bowl shape then place pumpkin flesh side up on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Season the inside of the pumpkin with salt and bake at 400˚F for 25-35 minutes or until inside is tender when tested with a fork. Fill with a fun pumpkin dish and enjoy! Check out our Taste of Distinction section for some yummy pumpkin recipes.
Make a Pumpkin Planter. These gourds can make perfect autumnal planters. Plant your seeds into soil, set within the pumpkin and watch them grow. After lasting for a few weeks the pumpkin will start to decompose. It can then be placed directly into the ground to fertilize your soil and grow healthy plants.
History of the Jack O’Lantern
By Danielle Debley
What would the fall season be without pumpkin carving? This time-honored tradition, enjoyed by friends and families all throughout the season, has been around for centuries…but where in the world did it get its start? The answer is Ireland.
According to www.history.com, hundreds of years ago Irish natives would tell the story of Stingy Jack. This man was a cruel trickster who would play mean jokes on anyone, even going as far as tricking the Devil himself. The most popular telling of the tale describes how Jack chased the Devil up a tree and then laid crosses at the foot of it, or carved a cross into the bark so that the Devil couldn’t come down. It wasn’t until the Devil promised not to take Stingy Jack’s soul that he removed the crosses and let the Devil go free.
When Jack died shortly after, such a soul as his was not permitted to enter Heaven. When he got to the Gates of Hell, the Devil kept his promise and would not take Jack’s soul for himself. Scared, Stingy Jack asked what he would do, now that he was made to forever walk the darkness of the Netherlands between Heaven and Hell. The Devil offered him an ember to help guide his way, so Jack placed it in a hollowed-out turnip and has been roaming the earth ever since. The Irish referred to this spectral being as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”
In Ireland and Scotland, turnips and potatoes were used to carve the first versions of Jack’s Lantern. Scary faces were cut into them and they were placed on doorsteps or window sills to keep Stingy Jack and other evil spirits away. When immigrants from these countries sailed over to America, they brought the tradition with them but soon realized that pumpkins, native to the New World, were easier to carve and made perfect Jack O’Lanterns.