I still carve pumpkins on Halloween. Sure, I might be (stressing the word ‘might’ there) a ‘grown-up’ now, but it’s still fun and the seeds are yummy when you roast them. Try as I might though, my pumpkins never turn out great. I can only endow them with those gap-toothed faces that commonly appear in the American suburban landscape around this time of year on people’s porches. You know the pumpkin I’m talking about, ‘Old Smiley Two-Teeth’. Adorable, but an eight year old could replicate my work. A nine year old could improve on it.
That’s why I truly admire those who go the extra mile. Those artists who look at a pumpkin and see a canvas. Some of these designs, I mean, you’d have to have the hands of a surgeon. Whether it’s just a really good scary face, a celebrity portrait, or a whole story etched into the gourde, even teenagers refrain from smashing them.
52. Carved Pumpkins (really good ones)
The origin behind the Jack O’Lantern stems from 18th century Celtic tradition. There are a few different variations on the story, but one of the most popular ones is that a man, Stingy Jack, who was always playing pranks on the devil, convinced Old Scratch to scramble up a tree for whatever reason…I wasn’t paying that close attention to what I was reading. Whilst up there, Jack carved crosses at the base, stranding the devil up in the boughs. So that he could get down, Lucifer made a deal with Stingy. The devil promised Stingy Jack that his soul would never enter the gates of hell. Great deal? Not so much. When Jack finally did pop his clogs he was denied entry to heaven as well (he was kind of a scoundrel). True to his word, the devil didn’t let him into hell either. Forlorn, Jack asked the devil what he was supposed to do and where was he supposed to go. The devil sarcastically flicked an ember from his fiery depths up at Jack so that he’d be able to light his way whilst her roamed the earth looking for his eternal rest. Jack stuck it into a carved out turnip creating the first, rather busted, version of the Jack O’Lantern.
Decor-savvy Irish children were soon carving the ‘lanterns’ to ward off the trickster (and other evil spirits). And yes, because there were no pumpkins in Ireland at that time, potatoes and turnips and rutabagas were used instead. Check it:
Not bad, but apparently they’re like hell to carve. Plus, what do you do with the insides? I’m assuming turnip pie just ain’t the same.
The Irish immigrants that sailed to The States brought the tradition of carving root vegetables and chucking candles into ‘em over with them. Just imagine their delight at the discovery of pumpkins. Maybe the streets of America weren’t paved with gold, maybe it’s not the land of milk and honey that it promised to be, but hey, at least we have some kickass squashes.
Since then, pumpkins have been imported and cultivated in Europe. So, everyone can enjoy stabbing faces and other designs into them.
Artistically, the move from turnip to pumpkin must have been like the move from crayons to computer animation. All of a sudden, the possibilities were endless. The gifted can do amazing things with a pumpkin. More than really complicated stencil-like designs, I dig the comedy pumpkins. A good gag. Let’s start with a classic: The Barfing Pumpkin. There have been many variations on this theme but here’s a solid example.
Nice use of facial expression as well as a healthy mix of seed and pumpkin guts in the faux-puke. Proper!
Here’s another example of this classic motif. This display employs a second character, the ‘victim’ pumpkin. I like how the barfing pumpkin looks like a bit of a scamp in this one. He’s got a bit of a crooked smirk in that wide-mawed puke-hole As if this was his plan all along…to get sick enough to yak on his little friend. Poor friend!
Other successful pumpkin artistes take the convention of pumpkin carving and turn it on its ear. I’ve seen some good Pac-Man pumpkins, a couple cannibal pumpkins (pumpkins eating other pumpkins of course), and even pervy pumpkins with naughty bits. Here’s a couple of very novel entries in the realm of unconventional carving:
Browsing for these photos has been fun, but there’s one website that I’ve found with an incredible gallery. For your convenience, I’d like to present it to you now. That website is: Extreme Pumpkins
I highly recommend that you go ahead and click that link. I like this guy’s whole attitude towards Halloween. It’s the ultimate good time–no one gets hurt–prankster holiday–that also celebrates mass consumption of candy. Not only does he have a great selection of pumpkin pics, but he promotes the general idea that those seeking candy aren’t the only ones that can play the tricks. So you’re not twelve anymore, there’s still fun to be had! Check out the page called ‘candy traps’ on his site. Lots of great ideas there for how to provide a little scare while you dole out those fun size snickers bars and mini boxes of raisins…you know…like distracting the trick or treaters with the candy while your partner jumps out of the bushes in a gorilla suit. Good, clean, bladder bursting fun.