Roundtable: What to carve on your jack-o’-lantern  

pumpkin on brown wooden table
Pictured is a woman carving a jack-o-lantern. With Halloween right around the corner, spooky decorations have already started going up and pumpkins are already being crafted; this Life Roundtable offers up ideas and tips on how to carve a really spooky jack-o-lantern. Photo by Monstera Production on

It’s that time of year again when everyone gets excited to put out some spooky yard decorations, and the choice for many is the classic jack-o’-lantern. In this roundtable, the Life section writers share their thoughts on what should be done to make the most of this Halloween tradition — we hope the responses below will help get you in the pumpkin-carving spirit! 

Benjamin Lassy, LE 

So, you’ve got a lovely pumpkin and the cheap plastic carving utensils they sell every year, now what? You’re staring at a blank canvas wondering, how can you make it into something memorable? 

Here’s my advice: Don’t follow a template sheet from those books full of spooky designs. The pages of easy stencil-like templates are a scapegoat for an original idea, you should be making your own magnum opus! 

There are a few options here, you could make your own design on a piece of paper, be it a logo you like, or a funny-looking face and at least those designs will be your own; but if you’re feeling courageous, you can also go in blind. Start cutting out wild shapes and see where you wind up. 

Think about it, what jack-o’-lanterns are the most memorable? Probably the ones that made you spit out your apple cider and say, “Wow, what on Earth is that supposed to be?!” Now, if you want to take that uniqueness a step further, scrap the pumpkin canvas entirely. Go gourd. Or even watermelon. The options are endless and just about any spherical-ish object will do — and quite frankly many work better than the traditional pumpkin. 

So, whether or not you take my wild advice, be sure to get in the festive spirit this season and do something memorable. After all, don’t good memories last way beyond the change of a season? 

Karla Perez, ALE

People have viewed carving a jack-o’-lantern as a classic Halloween tradition for years; however, some are far more skilled in the craft than others. I, for one, am one of the people who lacks pumpkin carving mastery.  

I envy those who have the confidence and ability to execute a beautiful depiction of iconic Halloween characters onto a pumpkin carving. For that, I am here to validate the simple yet effective pumpkin carving that is the classic jack-o’-lantern face for my fellow artistically challenged peers who still wish to participate in the activity.  

Call it boring if you will, but carving the classic pumpkin face incorporates a feeling of nostalgia — which automatically makes everything better.  Plus, you can then get creative with decorating the outside of your pumpkin. My elementary school held a pumpkin decorating contest every year, so I’m a big fan of this activity.  

Sticking with a simple face carving allows you to transform your pumpkin into any character despite whatever artistic limitations you have. Happy Halloween, and happy carving! 

two jack o lantern lamps
Pictured are two (2) carved jack-o-lanterns on the leafy ground. Jack-o-lanterns have become an essential part of the Halloween spirit, the faces carved into them giving off just the right amount of spooky without being truly haunting. Photo by Toni Cuenca on

Patrick Boots, CC

Carving the classic pumpkin face into jack-o’-lanterns remains the quintessential Halloween tradition, embodying the spirit of the season with timeless charm. Now, have I been able to do it all that well — sometimes, sometimes not… 

The simplicity of the triangular eyes, a toothy grin and a nose perfectly captures the essence of a mischievous, yet friendly spirit. This iconic design not only sparks nostalgia but also serves as a universal symbol, instantly recognizable and evoking a sense of camaraderie among celebrants. The traditional pumpkin face allows for creativity within a familiar framework, encouraging both beginners and seasoned artists to partake in the festive tradition. 

Its warm, flickering glow adds an inviting ambiance to autumn nights, transforming ordinary pumpkins into enchanting beacons. Choosing the classic design fosters a shared experience, connecting generations through a shared craft that transcends time. However, my friend Lewis always reminds me to make no mistake, for some pumpkins may not be jack-o’-lanterns, but have their own identities. 

Clyde D’Souza, CC 

Try as I might, I can never seem to get the classic ol’ pumpkin face just right. The mushy smile always makes me feel more secure on Halloween — not a feeling I like as a horror movie enthusiast. Of course, being the logical human being that I am, I go for something even more complicated: words. Be it a movie logo or a funny message, having a pumpkin on your doorstep that makes trick-or-treaters stop to read it seems like the perfect way to draw people in — if you’re lucky, they may get distracted for a second while you go in for the ultimate jump-scare. 

 Of course, for carving-challenged folks like me, half the time words like “Harry Potter” look more like “Hairy Putter,” but that’s beside the point. While it’s a fun exercise in dexterity, be warned that it may lead to broken knives and deformed skewers. Nonetheless, when done just right, these words can cast their eerie letters onto the ground in front when the pumpkin is fully gutted, and a light is thrown inside, making the endeavor all the more worthwhile.  

In the end, you can’t go too far off the deep end: a series of mangled holes in the pumpkin flesh is still intriguing enough to trick-or-treaters, who will probably see it as abstract pumpkin art. 

Henry St. Pierre, CC 

When it comes to the fall season, carving a pumpkin is as quintessential as dressing up on Halloween, eating turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving or having a cookout on the Fourth of July. 

That being said—there’s nothing I love more than breaking tradition. 

I believe there’s a better alternative to carving pumpkins. To me, painting pumpkins offers a better opportunity for creativity. I like carving jack-o’-lanterns as much as anyone else, but painting a face on a pumpkin has always been more fun for me.  

I’m not saying that jack-o’-lanterns have limited potential; I’ve seen some incredibly creative and inventive carved pumpkins before. The process of carving a pumpkin is also fun in itself, and the insides can be used for cooking after scooping them out, but I digress.  

If I’m carving a jack-o’-lantern, I usually stick to one of the standard faces. The ones with the jagged smile, maybe a tooth sticking out and a triangular nose. It doesn’t get better than that! If I’m painting a pumpkin, there’s a lot more that I can do; typically, I like painting something Halloween-related. Horror movies are the go-to, but even classic monsters like a zombie or skeletons are fun.  

But at the end of the day, I’m just happy fall is finally here. 

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