The Halloween holiday inches ever more closely, and you might be looking for a way to supercharge the season with a classic activity that's fun for all ages. Here are eight things you'll want to have on hand to throw a great and successful Halloween pumpkin carving party.
1. The right time
Carve pumpkins too early (and don't do any tricks to make them last longer), and you'll have rotted, deflated pumpkins by the time the big trick-or-treating night comes around. Too late, and well, you won't have as many days to enjoy your glowing creation! Many folks find that a week before Halloween is the perfect time to start carving your pumpkin.
2. Good pumpkins
You want a nice size (it's often easier to draw and cut patterns the larger a canvas you have) and you want to look for pumpkins that are relatively well shaped all the way around so you don't have to try to carve out your masterpiece on any strange lumps. Grab enough for you and to have a few extras on hand, but then ask your party guests to BTOP (Bring Their Own Pumpkin) so you don't have to provide everything for the party.
3. Good tools of the trade
You don't have to splurge on those pumpkin carving kits; a good serrated kitchen knife can get a lot of work done, and I like smaller utensils like paring knives for detail work. A big metal spoon will help you scoop out all the seeds and pumpkin guts. But then you also want to make sure you have things like toothpicks for any elaborate designs (or mistakes). Make sure you have enough bowls, trash bags, paper towels and table covers to help clean up as the night goes on. You might consider having cookie cutters on hand (you can "tap" the cutter into the side of the pumpkin for an instant shape guide pressed into the skin) and any other creative tools you might think a pumpkin carver might need.
You can grab some of those pumpkin carving design books that come with the carving kits, or you can spread out an array of interesting art, design and nature books with some tracing paper and pencils to let guests let their pumpkin carving imaginations go wild.
5. A theme and contest (with prizes!)
Want to help out folks who feel overwhelmed with trying to choose a pumpkin design to carve? Have your party have a theme — from your favorite television show to a pop culture reference to anything — and award prizes for the best carved pumpkins that match the theme.
6. Snacks & music
These are basically two great additions to any party, and a pumpkin carving party is no different. Get recipe ideas from this The Kitchn gathering → A Fall Pumpkin-Carving Party. Search for Halloween-themed playlists on streaming music services like Spotify.
7. Candles and matches
Make sure you have enough of these on hand so that you can light up — and oooh and awww over — the carved creations at the end of the night.
8. A backdrop for photos
Since nearly everyone at your party will be pleased with the results of their creative carving, make sure you carve out a good spot indoors or out for a photo shoot of each pretty pumpkin.
Check out directions for how to carve a pumpkin if you're feeling rusty, from The Kitchn → How To Carve a Pumpkin for Halloween