Kids Creative Chaos: Halloween Turnip? Why do we carve Jack-O-lanterns and How to Carve a Pumpkin

Halloween Turnip? Why do we carve Jack-O-lanterns and How to Carve a Pumpkin


Ever wonder why we carve pumpkins on Halloween? 

Why isn't the cartoon called, "It's The Great Turnip, Charlie Brown?" And, why is it called a Jack-o-lantern anyway? Scroll down to find out how the pumpkin carving tradition began. Enjoy!

Halloween Turnip? Why do we carve Jack O lanterns and How to Carve a Pumpkin
Turnip Jack-o-lantern.

Halloween Legend and Folklore

The jack-o-lantern is named after Jack, of course. He needed a lantern. Poor Jack he drank too much. His 18th century, Irish neighbors considered him a drunk and a miser, so they called him Stingy Jack. 

Apparently, Jack invited the devil over for a drink. He tricked the devil into paying (read more about this legend from TLC).  Of course, the devil was angry and he vowed to come back for Jack. Various tales tell the story a bit differently, but it ends with Jack hallowing out a turnip, inserting a burning coal ember, and using it to light his way through HELL or to keep the devil at bay. Afterward, Irish families carved turnip lanterns to keep Jack's ghost away. Thus, the Jack-o-lantern was born.

How to carve a pumpkin.
Once the Irish immigrants saw the pumpkin, they knew the larger veggie would be easier for Jack to see.

Do other countries carve pumpkins?  Here is a little tutorial for turnip and pumpkin carving in case you're new to the tradition. MARTHA STEWART CARVED TURNIPS

Why do we carve pumpkins?
Why do we carve pumpkins?

  Grab a grand pumpkin or turnip.

Carved Turnips for Halloween.
Carved Turnips.

Get a big carving knife, insert about 3" from the stem. It's difficult to cut, you must poke the knife in and wiggle it a little, pull it out, and then begin again until you've completed the circle. 

Once the top is removed you can begin cleaning your pumpkin. Just dive in with your hands and a large spoon and scoop the stringy goo and seeds out. Only pie pumpkins are edible, but the seeds of all pumpkins can be toasted for a yummy snack.

image of pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin Seeds waiting for roasting.
At first, the turnip seems like it's impossible to carve, but practice makes perfect. Score a ring inside the top layer (from where you removed the lid) and use your knife or a sturdy spoon to scrape out the insides. Leave about a 1/4 inch ring of flesh.

Turnip Jack-o-lanterns ready for candles.
Turnip Jack-o-lanterns ready for candles.

Draw a fun face or artsy, spooky picture onto the veggie. Insert Knife, pumpkin carving tool or even a screwdriver and cut. This is not fun- not for you, not for the littles. It's difficult, but once you've got a good slice going the piece will start to loosen. Let the littles place their hands inside the pumpkin/turnip and push out with their thumb. Oh what fun! It's like a little jigsaw puzzle.

How to carve a pumpkin: Digging out pumpkin guts and seeds.
How to carve a pumpkin: Digging out pumpkin guts and seeds.

Pumpkin clean inside and ready for a candle.

Keep your pumpkin dry! If you keep it in the house it lasts longer. Pumpkin Preservation Experiment. We sprayed ours with vinegar then wiped the excess liquid and patted the rest dry (it didn't work). Glue and Petroleum Jelly are only myths- see the preservation link. 

Decorate gourds for Halloween.
Decorate gourds: Happy Meal Stickers.
Mayhem stylin' with pumpkins.

Pumpkin Decorating Supplies: Stickers from a Happy Meal, Carving ideas, Battery powered Votives from Dollar Tree.

We like to decorate our pumpkins with stickers or felt to keep them thru Thanksgiving season. Don't believe me? Here is our snow pumpkin we decorated for CHRISTMAS with our snowman kit.

How to decorate a pumpkin like a Snowman.
Decorate a pumpkin like a Snowman.

Ahh... Halloween, I love you.

Recommended Reading:

The Little Scarecrow Boy by Margaret Wise Brown *ad

Extreme Pumpkin Carving, Second Edition Revised and Expanded: 20 Amazing Designs from Frightful to Fabulous *ad

October Calendar of Special Days

Thanks for stopping by :)

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