5 Fun Alternatives to Halloween Pumpkin Carving

Stuck for a pumpkin this year? Try these simple, inexpensive, jack-no-lantern ideas instead.

October 14, 2009

Pumpkins are scarce in some parts of the country this year; paint yours, and you can still bake with it later.

Pumpkin yields vary greatly in different regions from year to year, affecting price and availability in your neighborhood. But even if it was a banner year for this beloved fall crop, you may simply not feel like digging out the guts of a pumpkin for decorating purposes this year. No worry, we've got a some other fun, inexpensive ideas for you and your family when it comes to Halloween decoration ideas.


#1: The classic pumpkin, without the Halloween carvings.
Have your pumpkin and eat it too—just don't carve it. It’s easy to paint on a scary face, and the pumpkin should last long enough to provide you with roasted seeds and pie filling once Halloween is over. Just use nontoxic, water-based paint (add a drop or two of natural dishwashing liquid to a couple of tablespoons of paint in a paper cup to help it stick to the pumpkin skin). Wash off the paint and trim away any discolored skin when you're ready to cook up the pumpkin.

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#2: Grinning ghoul bottles.
Leave the pumpkin for your pies, and make Halloween pumpkin decorations that you can reuse year after year. This recycling project costs almost nothing, is easy enough for even very small children, won’t leave you with a mess to clean up, and the results are quite attractive. You’ll need a clean, clear, empty bottle or jar with the labels removed, a bottle of nontoxic orange water-based paint, black or yellow construction paper, and a glue stick, a small brown paper bag, and a bit of green or brown ribbon, string, or yarn. A two-liter soft-drink bottle or gallon milk jug works well, as does a fat glass pickle jar, and the absolute best is one of those big clear plastic barrels that pretzels or snack mix are sometimes sold in.

Pour a little orange paint into the empty bottle or jar, put the lid on firmly, and shake, rock, and roll it to coat the entire inside a good solid orange (add more paint if needed). If you want to use your faux jack-o-lantern outside, drop in a handful of rocks or sand so it won’t blow away. Cut out paper faces and paste them to the outside. To dress up the “stem,” cut out a circle or star shape from a brown paper bag, and put it over the lid, flat side down and ends up. Pull the ends of the paper into a stem shape in the middle of the top, and tie it at the base with the ribbon. If you have the kind of ribbon you can curl, use the flat edge of a pair of scissors to turn the ends into curly tendrils.

#3: Rustic paper-bag pumpkin.
All you need is a paper shopping sack (as plain as possible), some newspaper, an orange crayon, a short bit of brown twine, some black construction paper, and white glue or a big black marker. Take the paper off the crayon and use it sidewise to color the sides of the paper bag all over, but leaving the top few inches of the bag brown. Open the bag and fill it mostly full with crumpled balls of newspaper. Gather the top of the bag, twist it into a “stem,” and tie it together with the twine. Mush the bag into a pumpkin shape, and either cut a black paper face and glue it on or use the black marker to draw one on. You can recycle the entire thing after the holiday.

#4: Paper bag Jack-o-Luminaries.
Luminaries with wicked witch cuttings or funny jack-o-lantern faces are an easy way to dress up your walk or porch railing. Buy a pack of brown paper lunch sacks, and either draw black faces on the sides of the bags or carefully cut faces out. Open each bag, put a cup of dry sand into the bottom, and settle a small tea-light candle into the sand. Place the luminaries where no one's loose costume will get into the flame. These, too, can be recycled when November 1 rolls around.

#5: Reusable Tin Can Alley Cats.
If you have a bit of extra time, you can make some great reusable pierced “tin” lanterns from old metal cans (for really big ones, ask a local restaurant or cafeteria to save you some size-10 cans). Lay the empty, open can (labels removed) on its side on a firm surface, such as a pad of newspaper or a folded towel, and use a nail and hammer to pierce simple designs on all sides (you may want to draw them on first; check online for Halloween designs if you need help). Cats with arched backs are nifty, so are scary life-size eyes. Once the piercing is complete, spray or brush a low-VOC black paint onto the outside of the lantern (do this in a well-ventilated area) and let it dry completely. Or leave it as is. Add sand and a candle, as with paper-bag luminaries.

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