The Jack O’Lantern

Often more associated with American culture, the modern tradition of dressing up in ‘scary’ costumes, carving pumpkins and gorging on sweets can actually trace its origins back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.

Whether you call it Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve or simply October 31st, one of the most iconic symbols of this festival is the Jack O’Lantern. A practice that originated in Ireland and the folktale of ‘Stingy Jack’, Irish immigrants brought this tradition with them to America, the home of the pumpkin, where it soon became an integral part of Halloween festivities.

Pumpkins carved with ghoulish faces and illuminated by candles are a sure sign that Halloween season is upon us, so with this in mind, we want to talk all things pumpkin picking, decorating and displaying! If you're into children's arts and crafts, you're going to love this!

Family Day out Picking Pumpkins
  • Step 1 – Pick your Pumpkin: With pumpkin patches popping up all over the UK, picking your own has never been easier but if an afternoon of wheelbarrows and wellies isn’t your thing, most supermarkets also sell pumpkins that are perfect for decorating.

  • Step 2 – Carving, Painting & Decorating: Although traditionally carved, there are lots of fun and child-friendly ways to decorate your pumpkins. For older children, carving can be carried out safely and under adult supervision with the help of some readily available stencils or by creating their own, free hand designs. Perfect for young children, why not pull out the paints or felt tip pens? From painted faces to abstract designs, painting or drawing on your pumpkin makes a great alternative to carving, is just as fun and can deliver some fantastic results! After something a little bit different? Print out some black and white pages from your favourite scary story, tear into strips and stick to the outside of your pumpkin with some classic Mod Podge or PVA glue for a modern take on the Jack O’Lantern. Finish off by paining the stalk black for the full, monochromatic effect.
  • Decorate your Pumpkin
  • Step 3 – Display: Classically, Jack O’Lanterns were placed in windows or near doorways to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. Wherever you choose to display yours, make sure to keep it in a well-ventilated area that isn’t too hot or too cold to keep it looking fresher for longer. Rather than the classic candle, we recommend opting for a small LED tea light to place inside and really help your eye-catching carving shine!
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