Halloween Pumpkin Carving Ideas: Spectacular Jack-o'-lantern Art

From celebrity faces and Chinese dragons to scary pickled pumpkins.
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Halloween Pumpkin Carving Ideas: Spectacular Jack-o'-lantern Art Newsweek

Pumpkin carving, along with other Halloween traditions such as trick-or-treating and elaborate costumes, is such an ingrained part of American culture that it's easy to forget that its roots date back to far beyond our history.

Carving vegetables into weird and wonderful shapes seems to be a millenia-old practice found all over the world, from the Maoris to the Thais. The term jack-o'-lantern comes from 15th century England, when it was a name for the folk belief that a distant, flickering light would appear to travellers at night, drawing them away from a safe path and into boggy marshes.

It was the Irish that made the world's first Halloween jack-o'-lanterns in the 19th century. Instead of pumpkins, the Irish would often use the plentiful local turnip, with far more horrifying results than we are used to today—perhaps because they believed the carvings would ward off evil spirits.

The tradition soon travelled over to North America. In 1866, the Kingston, Ontario Daily News wrote that on Halloween the town's youngsters "had their maskings and their merry-makings, and perambulated the streets after dark in a way which was no doubt amusing to themselves. There was a great sacrifice of pumpkins from which to make transparent heads and face, lighted up by the unfailing two inches of tallow candle."

Over the years, pumpkin carving evolved into an elaborate artform, with a number of carving competitions held across the world every year. The largest jack-o'-lantern was carved in 2005 by artist Scott Cully in Northern Cambria, Pennsylvania—the vegetable weighed a massive 1,469 pounds according to Guinness World Records.

If you're looking for some inspiration for this year's Halloween carving, look no further. We've collected some of the most spectacular examples of jack-o'-lantern art, including celebrity faces, Chinese dragons and scary pickled pumpkins.

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He’s big, he’s scary, he’s orange—what could terrify the kids more than a Trumpkin? Here’s one at the "Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns" show in Los Angeles, California in 2016. MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images