This Is Halloween 2023: The Jacks Are Back!

It all starts here…

In years past, we had a tradition of carving jack o’lanterns for Halloween (you can see some of them in previous posts). When we debated whether or not we would carve them this year, we realized that the last time we actually did jack o’lanterns was in 2020. Three years ago! It was time to revive the tradition.

There were many reasons why there were no jack o’lanterns here on the farm in the past three years: difficulty finding pumpkins in the proper timeframe (buy them too soon, and they can rot before you have a chance to carve them); uncooperative weather (too warm right around Halloween and the carvings can shrivel and rot quickly); and, frankly, a sense that there were more important – and sometimes very depressing – events going on in the world that dampened our enthusiasm for carving pumpkins.

We nearly skipped it again this year. After all, there is a substantial amount of time invested in preparing the pumpkins (removing the “guts” and seeds, scraping the pumpkin to the right thickness, carefully tracing the chosen pattern on the pumpkin) and then the real work begins: carving the pumpkin, a delicate and painstaking process. It takes time and effort, and it would have been incredibly easy to spend that time and effort on other endeavors. But Halloween only comes once a year.

Even after finding two beautiful pumpkins of just the right size, we still weren’t committed to carving them. The weather was too warm to put the pumpkins out without them shriveling quickly, and the forecast showed that a cooling trend would arrive right around the big day. Was it even worth the effort?

On the day before Halloween, the weather had cooled. The colors of the crisp fallen leaves and the invigorating nip in the air nudged us toward honoring our tradition. We decided it was time to pick up the carving tools and go to work, thereby reviving the tradition we had previously taken so much pleasure in.

One of the most difficult parts of carving jack o’lanterns (at least for us) is choosing a design. Some years, we’ve done themes. We’ve even carved three pumpkins instead of two. This year, two felt like enough. We chose patterns from a site we’ve used for years, We enjoy the variety of patterns, the very reasonable pricing plans, and the ability to choose patterns based on difficulty.

View from the porch

Can you guess what the jack o’lanterns are? If you’re a (classic) “The Twilight Zone” fan, you’ll recognize the one that I carved. The other one may be more difficult to identify, but it’s from a movie. Hint: the lead character is an actor who played Dracula in another movie.

As we lit the pumpkins each night, we stood in the dark for a few moments and enjoyed our handiwork. Was it worth it for only 4 days’ worth of display? Yes, it was…because it helped restore the fun of Halloween for us. The act of transforming a lovely (but plain) pumpkin into a jack o’lantern is an act of optimism – who cares that it’s a fleeting piece of art, destined to wither, our careful carving gradually becoming unrecognizable? The joy is in the creation, and I think that’s a worthy endeavor in itself.

Here’s a bonus for those of you who read all the way to the bottom of this post: the first “jacks” we carved…20 years ago!