10 Tips for Hosting a Pumpkin Massacre

About 10 years ago, before throwing a Halloween bash, I decided to host a pre-party pumpkin carving. I wanted an apartment full of glowing jack-o-lanterns when guests arrived on Halloween. The carving was so much fun that it became a much-anticipated annual tradition and remains today long after I stopped hosting a Halloween fĂȘte.

If you're itching to host a seasonal gathering, a carving party is great fun. Really, who doesn't enjoy a good pumpkin slaughter!? And no costumes are required, so those friends that would otherwise shy away from a masquerade will have no worries.

There are a few things that I've learned over the years that will make it easier to undertake a full-blown carving party. And so, I impart to you my friends...

10 Tips for Hosting a Pumpkin Massacre
  • Do serve cocktails as a creative lubricant, but don't overdo it. One year I mixed so many pitchers of Bloody Marys, that it's quite surprising no one lost a finger. (You can read about that one on the live post from the event: Jacked My Lantern.)
  • Keep the food simple. Choose 1-2 finger foods for appetizers and chili or another make-ahead, filling dish that guests can serve themselves. This will free you up for managing the carving. 
  • Limit the number of invitees and ask them to RSVP. If you live in a large house, this might not be an issue, but I live in a small NY apartment. It's hard to have more than 12 people wielding sharp instruments in a confined space.
  • Make the party BYOP. Ask guests to bring their own pumpkin. The first year I went to a pumpkin patch with my then-roommate and we loaded up her tiny car with enough gourds for 10 guests. That was a little absurd.
  • Invest in a few mini-saws and good carving tools. You can find solid, quality instruments at the craft or hardware store. This article on Martha Stewart is a good source: Pumpkin Carving Tools. I find potter's hole cutters and sculptor's scrapers to be some of the most helpful tools. You can really thin out the walls of a pumpkin with the scrapers.
  • Provide inspiration for your guests. I usually print templates ahead of time, and collect photos and ideas from magazine articles. There is so much more to pumpkin carving than triangle eyes and toothy grins!
  • Create lots of space for carving. Clear enough counter and kitchen space so each guest has room to carve. I have an extra table that I set up every year. Guests will usually organically take turns if needed.
  • Protect your floors. As soon as knives start flashing and gourds are split open, pumpkin guts will be flying. Consider putting paper or plastic under the carving areas. Mopping right after the party is also an option--just get the goo before it gets crusty or you will have a long night indeed.
  • Prepare your own pumpkin before the guests arrive. I decided this year to gut my pumpkin and clean the seeds before my guests arrive. This is particularly essential because you need to appease the seed zombies as described below.
  • Roast the seeds during the party. To avoid the wrath of the pumpkin-seed zombies (aka your party guests) you must roast the seeds and serve them during the party. This is also nice because you can send them home in cute little Halloween containers with your guests. Seed rinsing and roasting is quite time consuming so don't be afraid to enlist help!
HA's 2011 Pumpkin in honor of the snow storm
It's also quite fun to hold a vote and bestow awards for the top carvings.

A few other pics from years past:


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