Halloween simply isn’t Halloween without a pumpkin. It’s the universal signal to trick or treaters that there’s some sweets or ghoulish treats on offer.
If your child wants to help but is too young to handle knives, or if you just don’t like the mess of pumpkin carving, you can choose a ‘no-carve’ pumpkin. To give it character, instead of carving it you can stick on googly eyes you’ve bought from a craft shop, make angry eyebrows out of electrical tape and use glow in the dark paint. Some even give their pumpkins that ‘Mummy’ look by wrapping them in bandages. And a now famous Halloween ‘hack’ is using the Mr Potato Head pieces, just pick your favourite expression.
If you’d prefer something more sophisticated and grown up, another no-carve pumpkin option is the decorative look. Think decoupage leaves, bold abstract patterns or simply garlanding the pumpkin with twigs and evergreens.
If you’ve decided to carve your pumpkin, choose one with a flattish base, that’s healthy and fairly symmetrical. Remove the top (or the bottom, some swear by this alternative method), scoop out the flesh and put it aside. It can be used to make yummy spicy pumpkin soup or stew for bonfire night.
Now to the actual carving. Smaller knives are more precise and you’re less likely to make big mistakes, and serrated knives are easier to use, as you can saw with them. Always keep sharp knives away from small children.
If you’re feeling confident, you can carve freehand, but most people will want to draw the face or pattern on the pumpkin first, or use a special stencil. When you carve with the pumpkin placed on a flat surface it can roll around, so instead sit it on a pile of tea towels. They will help it stay put, and you can use the tea towels to wipe your hands which are sure to get slippery as you carve.
If you don’t want the potential fire hazard of a tea light or candle, why not place an LED light in your pumpkin instead? It will last all night long, and there’s less risk. If you do use a real candle, remember to place your pumpkin well away from anything flammable, and make sure the flame is never exposed, as it could potentially set fire to trailing fancy dress costumes.
You’ve sorted your pumpkin, and the sweets are at the ready. Job done… or is it? If you want to make Halloween really magical for visitors, you can do so much more to add to the spooky atmosphere of your front porch or doorstep. From fake spider’s webs and plastic skulls or skeletons to window stickers of bloody handprints and dangling eyeballs, there are plenty of fun decorations you can buy to scare your visitors. If your porch light is too bright, think about turning it off and instead using fairy lights. You can always place some lanterns along your path to guide people to the door. If you really want to go to town, think about playing spooky sound effects through outdoor speakers. Owls hooting, demonic laughter, creaking staircases… you get the idea.
If you want to save the pennies and have fun making your own Halloween decorations, it’s easy. Suspend a balloon from your porch roof, and cover it in white gauze or a white sheet, then just draw on a ghost face. Or make the gory handprints (or even footprints) yourself with washable red paint. Create window silhouettes of flying witches with black paper and scissors. Gravestones can be made with plywood and some grey paint and you can add a scary message in glow in the dark paint, such as ‘Enter if you dare’.
If you love the theatre of Halloween, why not introduce some dramatic furniture and accessories into your home? The Nicoletti Alcova sofa in black makes a bold statement while the Ambrose Pendant light with its shade of feathery gilt leaves is fabulously glamorous with just a hint of the gothic about it. Wow your guests with show-stopping pieces, such as the boldly black striped Wellington fabric armchair or the fabulous Angel Wings.
Sweets? Check. Pumpkin? Check. Spooky decorations? Check. Congratulations, you’ve got Halloween sorted. Now there’s no need to be afraid of the doorbell ringing… unless those killer zombie clowns are on the loose again…