We have several traditions in the Lacroix household, most of which involve some sort of interpretive dance while dressed as chickens.
I’ve said too much.
Of all our traditions, none holds a place in my heart so dearly as “Jack O’Lantern Night.”
Here I am my wife and our kids, getting ready to dig into the pumpkins. Please ignore the weird faces some of the kids are making because we can’t get them to take a nice picture ever ever never ever it is so frustrating OMG.
Every year, just before Halloween where the kids get dressed up in their $80 costumes that they’ll only wear once, we go out and buy pumpkins for the sake of carving the crap out of them.
Of course, the first step in carving the crap out of them is actually scooping the crap out of them, which is honestly pretty gross.
If you’ve never carved a pumpkin, you’re missing out on one of the great joys of life. Here, in a nutshell, are the steps of creating the perfect Jack O’Lantern.
1) Buy pumpkins
This seems pretty self-explanatory, however you have a few options here for buying a pumpkin.
You can get a pumpkin at a local farm stand, if there happens to be one in your area. Because farms are locally operated, expect to pay $400 for a very small gourd. A gourd is another name for pumpkin, I think. Although, most things I see labeled “gourds” actually look like Robert the Bruce’s old father dying from leprosy or whatever at the end of Braveheart. If you want to avoid thinking about that and the possibility of growing broke by buying local, move onto the next option.
Your other option is to get a pumpkin at a grocery store for about six or seven bucks
All pumpkins have a flat spot because they spend their life lying on the ground in one position, much like a neglected baby. I can only say this because I have a huge flat spot on the back of my head and my therapist says someday I’ll be able to forgive but I’m not sure.
Now that you have your pumpkins…
2) Buy a carving kit
You can buy these carving kits pretty much anywhere around Halloween, but essentially they’re just a kit with a bunch of little tiny killing utensils and a plastic scoop.
The kit may or may not come with a booklet of templates that you will later curse as you try to tape it to the pumpkin. More on that later.
Now you have everything you need except your youngest just used a tiny saw to cut the kitchen counter. Sonofabitch.
3) Clean out the pumpkin
This part sucks.
First you have to cut a circle in the top of the pumpkin and pull the top off. This is more fun if you pretend you’re a crazed neurosurgeon like Ben Carson and accompany every motion with an evil laugh like BWAHAHAHAHA I AM PULLING OFF YOUR SKULL CAP NOW.
Be prepared for your spouse to back several feet away from you at this point.
Once you’ve removed the top of the pumpkin’s skull, you simply reach inside with the plastic scoop and start scooping all the gross crap out into a bowl.
Now comes the decision…
4) Save the seeds?
Does your family eat pumpkin seeds? If yes, then once you clean out the crap from inside the pumpkin you need to start separating the seeds from the stringy orange junk.
This will take seven years.
Once that is done, you rinse the seeds and let them dry and then spread them out on a baking sheet and in three more days you will have enough pumpkin seeds to yield almost two handfuls!! IT IS SO WORTH IT.
5) Start designing
Here is where you start drawing your design of what you will carve out on the pumpkin.
I highly suggest only doing this with pen and not permanent marker because permanent marker is a bitch to get off of a pumpkin and you will find yourself screaming at your children roughly three minutes into this step.
If you bought one of those pattern books with your carving kit, this is the part where it takes your youngest another day to decide which one she wants to do, and then another day trying to tape the design that’s drawn on a flat piece of paper to the round pumpkin. This requires you cutting tiny little slits in the sides of the paper and using tape and oh great now the paper is tearing and now it’s wet WHY DID YOU WET THE PAPER now it’s ruined go pick a different design.
This is our youngest’s design that went through this very ordeal and was carved out by my wife over the span of three months:
Moral: draw your own.
6) Start carving
Using the carving kit, start by poking holes in the pumpkin while giving suggestive winks at your wife..
Once she stops yelling at you, you can continue carving.
Use the tiny little saws and start cutting. Keep in mind that kids cannot do this and complain they are tired about five seconds into trying, so you end up doing this entire thing yourself. The more kids you have, the more you will have to do. You may want to request some time off work if you have more than three kids who want to make Jack O’Lanterns because you’re in this for the long haul, fella.
Optionally, you can do something like my daughter just did, which was to design a disco ball Jack O’Lantern. This only required my power drill and a mop because there was pumpkin sawdust all over the goddamn place but it came out pretty cool.
We put in an electronic strobe light for added effect and now our lawn is littered with people in their 50’s wearing white pantsuits.
7) You’re done! Put in a candle!
Congratulations! The year is 2083 and you’ve just finished making Jack O’Lanterns that started to rot while you were working on them eight decades ago!
Now all you have to do is put them outside and put a candle in them!
The candles will, of course, blow out or not have enough oxygen to keep the flame sustained, so I suggest buying battery-powered candles that will break when it rains or the temp dips below 35 degrees, which it will because it’s October. Basically what I’m saying is just buy one candle, take some pictures and be done with it.
Scary or Funny? One Last-Minute Tip
Before I let you go and kill some vegetables, let me remind you that there are several options on how to design your pumpkin.
Scary? Sure. Go scary. I always go scary when designing my Jack O’Lantern. But I also live in the house with two of my boys who are both also funny, so scary pumpkins from them is not an option.
Instead, I’ll get stuff like this from my stepson:
Or…my very favorite pumpkin carving of all-time from my son:
I cannot walk up my stairs without laughing when I see that thing.
It is incredible.
Photo credit: Author