The act of carving pumpkins at Halloween has ancient origins. The Celts held the night of October 31st sacred as the eve of the pagan new year. To celebrate, it was customary to gouge out turnips and light them from within using a lump of burning coal. These lanterns were then placed in windows to welcome in the spirits of loved-ones that had passed away but also to protect the household from more malevolent forces.
These days Halloween has lost its spiritual significance and is seen more of an excuse to dress up in spooky costumes and terrorize the neighbors. We do this because….well…we just do! The act of making lanterns from natural material is still popular. Far from lumps of burning coal in turnips, pumpkins are now our chosen lantern material. Bigger and more tender they are much better suited to carving and great fun to decorate.
I had never carved a pumpkin before so this year to celebrate Halloween I decided to get creative. For starters I rounded up my materials:
A healthy, reasonably-sized pumpkin, a pencil to draw a rough face design, a really sharp knife to cut the “lid” off, a dessert spoon or simlilar to scrape out the insides, a scalpal, lemon zester, and a lino cutting tool (like one used for lino printing) to do all the tricky, arty bits. With tools lined up I set about creating my pumpkin face. You can find lots of designs on the internet to transfer onto your pumpkin but I just drew a freehand face.
This is definitely not a project for the kids as very sharp implements are needed. I liked the idea of using the lemon zester and lino-cutter to just cut away the outer peel of the pumpkin which allows for some of the candlelight to come through. I also found it useful to turn the pumpkin upside down on its cropped top so it was easier to steady. It probably saved one of my fingers….
I was quite pleased with the results- for a first attempt. My reward was a snack of freshly toasted pumpkin seeds. Tossing the seeds in rapeseed oil I sprinkled them with salt and placed them in the oven at a temperature of 200c for 20 minutes and sat back to admire my biodegradable halloween lantern. Yes, it should definitely scare the ghouls away!