Sunday, October 9, 2011

31 Days of Halloween: Pumpkins


You have to love pumpkins. They are kind of a Halloween and Autumn staple. You have pumpkin pie, pumpkin flavored lattes, carved pumpkins, decorative pumpkins….well you get the idea. Now there are some reasons I love pumpkins. I love the act of going to find your absolute favorite pumpkin, heading to the patch and riding on the back of a horse drawn cart. I love the lore of them and I love the Charlie Brown special of the Great Pumpkin. I love the color of them and the bounty they seem to represent. I love pumpkin seeds and our soon to be annual pumpkin decorating contest at work.

So why exactly is the significance of pumpkins in Halloween. Well most historians believe that the Celts used to carve apples, and turnips into small lanterns. Whether they carved faces into them to ward off evil is highly debatable because lets face it have you ever tried to carve a cute little jack-o-lantern type face into an apple or turnip. Pumpkins…far easier. Which is exactly what early settlers did. Eventually it became part of Halloween folklore and the carved pumpkin was long associated with the Harvest and Fall before we adopted it as the official mascot of Halloween. In 1900, an article on Thanksgiving entertaining recommended a lit jack-o'-lantern as part of the festivities that encourage kids and families to join together to make their own jack-o-lanterns. Today pumpkin gathering and then carving is an art form all to itself. Case in point:

Ray Villafane: You have probably seen Ray’s artwork at least somewhere during Halloween. Right now on the Food Network he is part of the Halloween Wars show and it is not hard to understand why he has never lost a pumpkin carving competition. He is a toy sculptor by trade and has worked with companies like McFarlane Toys, Sideshow Collectibles and DC Direct. Though in his spare time he carves pumpkins and lately sand. He is an amazing sculptor and by far this is some of the most amazing and just frakking brilliant carving I have ever seen.

To see more of his pumpkin sculptures and other work, visit  There’s also a great pumpkin carving tutorial on his website.


PUMPKIN STENCILS: You have to have a great stencil or idea for your pumpkin. I tend to stay away from the Ray type of carving as I….suck at it. Won’t happen. It would look horrible. So I tend to stick to the stencils and being the adorable geek that I am, it tends to be pop culture fun as much as it may be Halloween fare. Here are some of my favorite stencils I have found on the interwebs.

Zombie Pumpkins (Stencils Galore)
Pink Raygun's Templates (Everything from Doctor Who to Thor to Walking Dead Zombies)
Stoneykins (Again tons of free stencils. This one has everything from Blue's Clues to Dexter though you can purchase more)

Any great sites that you know of?


AVOID PUMPKIN ROT: Last year I had a great pumpkin. My friends and I had a couple of pumpkin carving parties and my piece de resistance was a Jack Skellington pumpkin I was quite fond of. Now luckily I live in Bozeman Montana where there is already snow in the mountains not far from my home and it is only October 9th. I would not be surprised at all if I had snow on the ground before Halloween as it happened last year. And quite possibly the year before that as well. So I feel like my pumpkin tends to stick around a bit more than it ever did when I lived in New Jersey. But it always a bit disheartening when your pumpkin dies before the actual holiday and suddenly no longer looks like Jack Skellington, but crazy toothless version of an eccentric elderly person after a bender. 

There are plenty of tricks out there. Some say spray your pumpkin with WD-40, others say lemon juice or to wet it, wrap it and then stick it in the refrigerator while you don’t want to display it. Pumpkin Masters say that you should soak or spray your pumpkin with a little bit of bleach mixed with water. Apparently this helps ward off the mold and kills insects that would otherwise make your newly carved masterpiece its new little loft of awesome. Do you have tricks or techniques that work for you?

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