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Carve a pumpkin lantern

Carved pumpkin display for Halloween at Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire
Carved pumpkin display for Halloween at Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire | © National Trust Images/Mike Selby

Instead of buying plastic decorations this Halloween, why not follow our step-by-step guide and carve a traditional pumpkin lantern instead? It's a great way to have all the spooky fun while being kinder to the planet. You can also make other natural decorations by decorating your windows with twigs, leaves and foliage you find on a walk.

What you’ll need

  • Pumpkin or another suitable vegetable such as a squash

  • Pen or pencil

  • Spoon

  • Sharp knife


Choose your vegetable
Buy local where possible and choose a pumpkin, squash or other vegetable that’s in season. Whatever you choose has to have a good enough surface for marking your design on and needs to be edible for humans and wildlife. Don't be put off by weirdly shaped produce – the more uneven, knobbly or bizarre the better, as it adds character to your creation.
Plan your design
Draw your design on a piece of scrap paper first so you can test it out. Remember to keep it simple. Why not try something different from the usual spooky faces and be inspired by nature? There’s lots of beauty outside in the autumn, from birds to trees and leaves. When you're ready, draw your design onto your pumpkin or vegetable with a pen or pencil to create a cutting guide.
Cut the lid and scoop out the pulp
Place the pumpkin or squash on a damp cloth to stop it slipping. Grab an apron, sturdy spoon, and craft or kitchen knife. Ask an adult to help you angle your knife a little and cut a large circle around the stem to create a lid. Remove your lid to get to the insides of the pumpkin. Scoop the seeds and pulp out into a bowl and set them to one side for later.
Carve your creation
Following the guide you drew earlier, carefully carve your pumpkin design and save all the pieces you carve out. Once you've finished, place a candle or reusable battery-powered tea light inside to light up your pumpkin.
Show off your lantern
Display your pumpkin lantern in a prominent place, perhaps outside your front door or on a table by a window. When you're not using it, make sure you replace the lid to help keep your pumpkin fresh for longer.

Recycle and reuse your pumpkin

Have a green Halloween

Provided your pumpkin hasn't been painted, no part of it needs to go to waste. Everything can be recycled.

Tasty treats

You can roast or puree the pulp to use in a tasty recipe and roast the seeds as a tasty snack for birds and squirrels. The fleshy parts you carved out from your design also make tasty crisps and chips if you cut them into thin slices and roast them.

Nourishing nature

As your pumpkin starts to wilt and comes to the end of its life, refashion it into a bowl-shaped birdfeeder for the garden or your windowsill.

Alternatively, chop it up into small pieces and add it to a compost heap. Your pumpkin will make fantastic material for worms and other organisms to break down into beautiful soil for your garden or allotment.

More ideas for Halloween decorations

Celebrating the spooky season doesn't have to be scary for the environment. Here are some tips for creating natural decorations for a waste-free Halloween. Just remember to pick things up from the ground rather than off living trees and plants and wash your hands after handling them.

A child holding a bunch of autumn leaves at Morden Hall Park, London.
Playing with autumn leaves at Morden Hall Park | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

Be inspired by nature

Take a walk and look out for what might work as decorations – if they work together in the natural world, they'll work visually in your home too.

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More craft activities

Discover more fun craft activities to keep you occupied all through the year.

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