Although the tradition of carving vegetables for Halloween is popular in Britain and Ireland, the practice of carving pumpkins as Jack-o-Lanterns comes from North America. A carved pumpkin in a window with a lighted candle placed inside has become a traditional way of greeting trick-or-treaters and welcoming them inside for treats.
You need to select a fresh pumpkin for the carving. Pumpkins vary in shape and size, with some being low and round, while others are long and oval. You have to make sure that the bottom of the pumpkin is flat and will stand on its own. You need to have a marker or pencil to draw the shapes you want on the face of the pumpkin. There are also stencils you can buy that you stick onto the pumpkin and you just carve around the shapes.
You start carving a pumpkin by making a circular or hexagonal cut in the top of the pumpkin – usually in the place with part of the stalk still remaining. You will have to use a sharp, long knife to get through the thick skin of the pumpkin and when you pull it away from the top, there will be pulp and stringy matter that you need to cut away.
The next part of the process involves scooping out the pulp. You need a large knife to cut the pulp away from the sides and a large spoon to scoop it out with. You should have a bowl ready in which you place the pulp so that you can remove the seeds, since they are also good to eat. As you remove more and more of the pulp you will gradually clean out the inside of the pumpkin.
Once you have it cleaned out, then you can trace out the design of the face. Some people like to use triangles for the eyes and nose and use a zigzag pattern for the mouth. Some pumpkins have a friendly face, while others are made to look like scary monsters. Follow the pattern with your knife as you cut along the edges. When you have the shapes cut around, a gentle push will make them fall into the pumpkin. Just reach in with your hand to take them out. Once you have the carving done, you can place a lighted votive candle inside and replace the first piece you cut from the top, which then becomes the cover.