For autumn festivities, carving vegetables into human shapes has been an honored tradition on All Hallow’s Eve. As long ago as the 12th Century, to celebrate successful harvests, people in the British Isles put intricately carved potatoes, yams, carrots and beets in windows and on doorsteps. This was to make their houses safe from evil spirits.
When they came to the New World, the communities continued their harvest ceremonies, finding the much larger and more colorful pumpkin more suitable for carving. It has become an annual Halloween and Thanksgiving tradition in America.
As much fun as carving the big orange gourd can be, doing the work comes with some dangers. The outer skin is tough, and requires heavy pressures and large, sharp knives to penetrate and cut out precise designs.
Some basic safety tips could be helpful when you plan your pumpkin carving duties for this year’s festivities.
1. The right location: If you’ll be preparing large pumpkins, it’s best to do it outside in full daylight. The carving job can get very messy, especially when there are many people involved, especially eager kids. When you’re finished, you can easily hose down the table and surrounding grounds.
2. Use a large picnic table and cover it with several layers of newspapers. Place the pumpkins firmly on top and be sure they don’t slide around while carving. Carefully slice around the top, a circumference line all around about two inches below the stem. Remove the section, which will allow a fist-sized round hole for scraping out the flesh and seeds inside. This has to be done with a very sharp knife by an adult.
3. Assign duties to kids: For safety, it’s best that no child younger than teens should handle cutting and scraping duties. If large spoons, instead of knives, are used to scrape out the insides, kids can do that task. Another job small kids can do is to separate the removed pumpkin seeds from the flesh, pat dry and place them on an aluminum sheet for baking. After the seeds come out of the oven, the kids put them in clear plastic bags as snack items.
4. The most fun kids can have with preparing the pumpkins is participating in the face designs. They can use felt-tipped pens to create originals or copy from template designs available on many online sites.
5. Knives: Make sure the knives are very sharp before cutting the pumpkins, so they easily go through the tough skin. When working with knives on the pumpkin, especially in the wet insides, keep the handles totally dry to prevent slipping and possible injuries.
While cutting with large knives, keep the knife moving away from your face and other hand in short, well-controlled strokes. At least one adult must be with the knives at all times, to avoid the danger of accidents involving small kids.
6. The unkindest cut of all: Although all safety procedures are met and the kids are kept at a safe distance, a pumpkin carver can have an accident. Keep a first aid kit on hand to patch up minor cuts, and be prepared to go to an emergency ward or call 9-1-1 if an unfortunately deep wound occurs.
If all proper care is observed throughout the task, pumpkin carving can be fun for everyone involved. However, it also helps to be prepared for possible injuries.