Pumpkin carving is a rather strange kind of seasonal tradition, when you come to think of it — but so much fun for all ages!

Our family likes to make a bit of a party of it, with a big pile of pumpkins of various shapes and sizes, one or more for every member of the family from Grandpa down to the toddler (with a little help from Mom). We usually do our pumpkin carving out on the porch or front lawn, to cut down on the mess in the house, then rush indoors to share a big jug of hot chocolate — good times!

Lowes Project Center offers a pretty good guide to making Jack-o-lanterns. It includes a tool list, tips for carving freehand or carving with the use of a stencil. Not only that, they’ve got a few full-size pumpkin-caring stencils you can download to print out, if you’re stuck for ideas.

Oh, one more tip — you can get some really cool effects if you pick some areas and don’t cut all the way through the pumpkin in those places. Just take off the tough outer skin, and then whittle away enough of the inner pumpkin flesh so there’s still a thin layer instead of a wide-open hole. The light inside your pumpkin will shine softly through this thin wall of pumpkin, making a diffused glow. It’s great for putting a blush on the cheeks of your Jack-o-Lantern, or giving him some complicated tattooes, or even doing an intricate abstract design.

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