15 Pumpkin Carving Ideas to Get You in the Halloween Spirit

Rose Morrison

Sep 28, 2023

pumpkin carving ideas for Halloween

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Halloween is soon approaching and there are many things to look forward to enjoying. From candy to scary movies, different traditions make the season special. Jack-o-Lantern’s are a staple of spooky season. If you can’t wait to plan your Halloween events, here are 15 pumpkin carving ideas to get you in the spirit.

1. Create a 2 in 1 Decoration

pumpkin carving ideas - carved pumpkin lanterns

If a traditional jack-o-lantern is not for you, consider improving your pumpkins by adding a handle or hat. Doing so can help them better blend into your decor and be a fun surprise for kids and adults alike. You can create a bucket that holds other decorations or use them as the head for a scarecrow. You could also carve leaves or other fall symbols for a twist on the typical Halloween decor.

2. Play with Emotions

pumpkin carving ideas - carved pumpkin lanterns with a cat and flowers in the background

Not all jack-o-lanterns have to be scary or happy. Play with different faces on multiple pumpkins to create a garden of Halloween pumpkins. The family of feelings can line sidewalks or decorate porches and are sure to amuse passersby.

3. Turn Ordinary Decor into Jack-o-Lanterns

pumpkin carving ideas - a glass candle holder

Jack-o-lanterns don’t have to be from pumpkins. You can turn anything into inspired decor by placing similar designs on other items– like an orange candle. Painting wood or cardboard can make great so-it-yourself (DIY) decorations that last forever.

4. Make a Smoking Pumpkin

pumpkin carving ideas - a smoking carved pumpkin

One of the best pumpkin carving ideas is to add an extra spooky touch to your jack-o-lantern by putting dry ice or a smoke grenade inside for some cool pictures or to add atmosphere to your trick-or-treat set-up.

5. Carve Out a Hat

While it’s standard practice to try and cut the top of your pumpkin so it perfectly fits back on, don’t beat your self up over an unsymmetrical carving. Consider maximizing on the “lantern” look by leaving space between the pumpkin and its top to create a “hat.”

6. Use a Stencil

This may not be a revolutionary suggestion since there are many stencil books on the market each autumn, you don’t have to stick with conventional designs. Simply pull up an outline of what you want to carve and copy it onto a blank Word document. Size it appropriately and print it off to create virtually any carving.

7. Make a Chicken

This design is a chicken lover’s dream and is easy to create. Use a medium triangle for the nose and several small triangles around for the feathers. Use small circles for feet and eyebrows and two medium circles for eyes. This chicken is a great first jack-o-lantern for kids or a unique option for adults.

8. Make Pumpkin Parents and Children

One of a fun family pumpkin carving ideas is to create a family of jack-o-lanterns. Create parent, child, grandparent and pet jack-o-lanterns to represent all of your loved ones through the season.

9. Paint Your Pumpkins

To make your designs last all season, consider painting your pumpkins first. You can choose to paint them to last for the season or carve out the designs closer to Halloween.

10. Carve Your Logo

If you’re a business owner, take advantage of the jack-o-lantern tradition to market it in a unique way. Carve out your logo or items associated with your brand to catch the public’s attention.

11. Carve Your Favorite Characters

pumpkin carving ideas - a carved pumpkin

Express your fandom by carving your pumpkins to look like your favorite characters. Jack-o-lanterns are a fantastic opportunity to express yourself. Share your love of properties and inspire others to check them out.

12. Use Shallow Carvings to Add Dimension

Want to lean into Halloween scares, place a horror villain in the middle of your walkway. You can make an image like Pennywise more realistic by using shallow carving techniques, where you don’t cut all the way through.

13. Make a Pumpkin Mask

pumpkin carving ideas - two guys wearing carved pumpkin masks

You don’t have to place a light into a carved pumpkin. If you can take the smell and texture, you could take some fun photos or scare your friends by making a mask.

14. Create a Portrait

pumpkin carving ideas - portrait made of carved pumpkin

Create a portrait of you or your friends by carving your silhouette into the pumpkin. You can create a stencil with a photo to turn yourself into a fun and eerie masterpiece.

15. Use Them for Baby Photos

pumpkin carving ideas - a baby dressing a carved pumpkin

This trend isn’t for everyone but there isn’t much more wholesome during the fall than placing your baby in a pumpkin. It’s one of the purest ways to embrace pumpkin carving.

History of Jack-o-Lanterns

The earliest use of jack-o-lanterns began thousands of years ago in northern European Celtic cultures. The vegetables depicted human heads and some historians believe that it was an extension of head veneration–the custom of using the severed heads of foes as war trophies. 

The Celtic festival Samhain used to take place on November 1st and inspired many Halloween customs, including jack-o-lanterns. The night before, residents believed that the spirits of the dead could communicate with the living. To keep dangerous spirits away, people would dress up and carve scary faces into excess vegetables from recent harvests, like turnips and potatoes. They were an excellent alternative to metal lanterns, which many could not afford. 

The name “jack-o-lantern” began as a nickname for humans. In 1600s Britain, people would call a man “Jack” if they didn’t know their actual name. Night watchmen would guard facilities with lanterns and many would call them “Jacks of the Lantern.”

Eventually, an Irish folktale called “Stingy Jack” rose to popularity in the 1700s. He was often called a blacksmith who enjoyed drinking and engaging in mischief. In the many versions, a single storyline states Jack tricked the devil two different times. Thanks to this trickery, he was unable to enter heaven or hell when he died. The devil took pity on home and gave Jack an ember of coal that he uses in a turnip lantern to travel between the two locations forever. 

Nathaniel Hawthorne referenced wrote about jack-o-lanterns in “The Great Carbuncle” and “Feathertop.” The latter was about a scarecrow who had a carved pumpkin head. In America, the first image of a jack-o-lantern was likely the one in the 1867 issue of Harper’s Weekly

Introduction to America

Many Irish immigrants came to the United States in the 1800s and 1900s, bringing their traditions and stories. They discovered the land’s native pumpkins worked better for their jack-o-lanterns and began creating the ones you recognize today. It soon became an icon of Halloween celebrations. Even in the technological age, picking out and carving pumpkins is a tradition for many families. 

For many communities, displaying jack-o-lanterns enhanced by various pumpkin carving ideas is part of what makes the celebration so enjoyable.

Carving Pumpkins to Get in the Halloween Spirit

Pumpkin-carving is a beloved tradition for kids and adults. Planning your perfect jack-o-lantern is a great way to get into the fall and Halloween spirit.

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