Halloween will probably dredge up tons of memories for most people. From being nearly frozen while trick-or-treating in the crisp October air to dividing up your candy haul on the floor with your siblings it’s something not easily forgotten. But the most iconic Halloween symbol has and always will be a Jack-O-Lantern. Even if you’re not trick-or-treating this year, I would highly encourage you to take a walk in the evenings leading up to Halloween. This way you can enjoy the gorgeous orange glow quietly flickering behind the magnificent characters carved into gourds. From the classic faces to the more ornate layered carvings they are certainly the best way to celebrate this time of year. There will always be something magical about them, that’s why today we’re going to give you 5 tips regarding how to host a pumpkin carving party!
I think I only went to a party where we carved pumpkins one year. It was at a house that belonged to some of my parent’s friends. I remember the cool autumn air, lots of laughter as the sun slinked behind the hill and tons of taquitos. You know the frozen Delimex ones that warm your soul and throws you back to your college years. Those ones.
Most of the time we would just carve alongside my father. For someone who used to be a professional sculptor and could sketch up nearly anything on cue, it’s really no surprise he was a master pumpkin carver. When he was able he would spend hours. Not carving one, or two pumpkins – but enough to line the whole porch of our Victorian home. I remember one of the most impressive ones had the flag (not with all fifty stars, but still very detailed) and he also did a headless horseman one as well. There’s just something about enjoying the weather with close friends and family while the earthy smell of pumpkin fills the air. Combine that with the slimy pumpkin guts and meticulous carving and you’ve got yourself a fabulous evening.
How to Host a Pumpkin Carving Party
1. Ironing Out the Details
When choosing to host a pumpkin carving party take into account your guests and their needs. For instance, regardless of age you will probably need an outdoor location. This makes for easier cleaning! For us, we chose the porch. The weather was beautiful and this way our house wouldn’t reek of pumpkin and we wouldn’t ruin the carpet. Don’t have a porch or backyard? Bring a table and enjoy your local park!
When choosing a time for your pumpkin party you should identify your goals. You need to make sure you factor in adequate time with quality light. Once you have decided if you/your guests will be carving a passel of pumpkins, whether they are intricate or basic and what the general skill level is you can choose an appropriate time. For instance, instead of doing what I did and scheduling it an half an hour before sunset with just a porch and lantern – you could actually see well. This improves speed and definitely safety. It also tends to be warmer when the sun is out.
Now, it had been a LONG while since I’ve carved pumpkins. But to carve one pumpkin (particularly the Cheshire cat one I did this week) it took me about two hours. My design wasn’t super complex but it wasn’t incredibly basic. I consider myself to be relatively artistic. But still, two hours. My mom and brother finished just a little before I did.
I would recommend a minimum of two and a half hours before sunset if you’re each planning on one pumpkin. If you’re having little ones at your party, factor that in. They will need assistance if they will be carving and even with a no carve design.
2. Don’t Leave Your Guests Hanging
Having a pumpkin carving party is just like having any other party. Whether it’s a text, paper or digital invite, you should share some details with your guests. Of course you’ll want to explain the location as mentioned above, and the time. But what about for someone who is unfamiliar with pumpkin carving? This is a great time to address a few different items:
- Whether it is a Bring Your Own Pumpkin (or if they are provided)
- What Carving Tools / Non Carving Design Tools will be provided (Print-out templates, knives, scrapers, paint, etc.) with a suggestion to bring anything else they might need for a specialty design
- How to Pick the Perfect Pumpkin (Ideally a pumpkin should sit upright on it’s own, have a stem 1-2 inches long and have no soft spots)
- Ideal Pumpkin Carving Dress (Take into account the forecast & remind everyone to wear something they’re comfortable covering in pumpkin guts & seeds)
- If food will be provided (what type & what time)
3. Setting the Stage
Just like any other party a pumpkin carving party should have a certain ambiance. What better way to do this than with a Halloween Music Playlist? You can create yours for free on Pandora today!
When you’re setting up you’ll also need to remember how important it is to clean up. Whether you’re at a public park or in your own backyard it’s an important courtesy. You’ll need to make sure you identify a way of disposing of pumpkin guts (if you’ll not be using them for other means). A trashcan will do for this or even some cute tabletop containers! Another great way to keep everything clean is to line the table and underneath the table with a disposable tablecloth or tarp. This makes cleanup much easier!
4. Making Your Guests Comfortable
It’s important at your pumpkin carving party to keep your guests comfortable.
This starts with having the right tools. I would highly recommend providing a pumpkin carving kit that is complete with a knife or scraper. They have them for a the nominal investment of 99 cents at Walmart. I know that it sounds great to raid the kitchen for wooden spoons and knives but in all honesty these were pretty worthless next to the carving kit.
Chances are – you’re probably going to feed your guests at some point considering the length of the party (factor that in when planning on the start time as well). Choose something seasonal and appropriate. If you’re doing dinner or a heavy lunch we recommend preparing something hearty that you can prepare ahead or leave warm in a crock pot! (You get extra points if it’s seasonal.) Regardless if you have a full meal or not lots of snacks are certainly fantastic! Though we did make Mummy Brains (Spaghetti) for the actual dinner treats were also involved. Caramel popcorn, spooky blue corn tortilla chips, chex mix and pumpkin spice mini cupcakes (all found at Walmart) were perfect! They made for a fantastic balance of salt and sweet.
You could definitely make a point to of course have fun beverages! If you’re anticipating it to be really cold, make some cider. Or, if you are into celebrating harvest season – provide wine. I got little bottles of cabernet and merlot for all of our party guests to enjoy.
Finally don’t forget the most important part – a tealight or votive! Whether you want to view the results of your work collectively or send them home with people be sure to have these on hand.
Finally, provide some spare garbage bags! They’re not the most fashionable things but if you notch holes in the sides for arms and near where the collar would be they make great slickers. This can help keep kiddos clean for worried parents and keep those who dressed fashionably comfortable as well!
5. Carving Pumpkins Responsibly
To help your pumpkins look more cute and less scary it’s recommended to carve them no more than 7-10 days out. Today is just a little less than a week, which makes it perfect! Plus then you can enjoy them all of the evenings leading up to the big day. You should also preserve them to prevent any possibility for mold/drying out in the mean time, a great way to do this is to dip them in bleach.
Finally, have a plan for the pumpkin guts. This could be to throw them away. Most people do. Or, you could make them into necklaces, body scrub or roast them!
Hopefully this helps you have a fantastic pumpkin carving party!