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Día de Muertos-Inspired Halloween Pumpkins

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October 27, 2016

Día de Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” is a Mexican holiday that honors family and friends who have passed. It’s about remembering and celebrating the good things in life: the people we love.

 

It’s similar to Halloween in that it focuses on spirits and the afterlife. Yet, while most Halloween traditions center around warding off evil spirits, Day of the Dead welcomes the spirits of returning loved ones. The symbols of these holidays differ, too. Witches, ghosts, goblins, and carved pumpkins dominate Halloween décor, whereas skeletons, coffins, brightly colored flowers, and elaborate sugar skulls are common symbols associated with the Day of the Dead.

 

Like a batch of delicious guacamole, good things happen when you mash things together. Why not give your Halloween pumpkins a Día de Muertos flair with these fun design ideas?

 

Skull Jack-o’-Lanterns

The simplest way to rock a Day of the Dead vibe with your pumpkin is to forego the traditional triangular eyes and gap-toothed grin and opt for a more realistic skull look instead. To accomplish this, you’ll want a long, tall pumpkin for the best effect and a thin, sharp knife to get the rounded eye sockets and teeth. Print out a skull pumpkin carving pattern, then tape the stencil to your pumpkin and make pin pricks through the paper onto the skin of the pumpkin that you can then follow with your knife.

 

Día de Muertos Avo Skulls

Pumpkins aren’t the only fruit to carve in fall! Avocados From Mexico are in season year-round and a fun addition to the carved pumpkins on your doorstep. Día de Muertos Avo Skulls are a fun craft for adults and supervised kids old enough to safely handle knives.

 

What you need:

  • 1 firm avocado
  • 1 lemon
  • Small knife
  • Marker
  • Wooden skewer or toothpick

 

Directions: Draw your design onto the avocado. Carve with a knife and remove the loose chunks. Squeeze lemon juice over the exposed green flesh of the avocado to keep it from turning brown.

 

Sugar Skull Pumpkins

Sugary skulls decorated with colorful icing are a popular craft for Day of the Dead. You’ll need special molds and plenty of time to make them from sugar, but another option is to carve a pumpkin in a sugar skull pattern. Besides the eye sockets and teeth, you’ll carve thin lines, circles, and flower shapes as decoration.

 

Pumpkin Spice Guacamole

Every pumpkin carving party should come with a great big, bootiful bowl of guacamole! This pumpkin spice guacamole recipe mixes cozy autumn spices with melt-in-your-mouth avocados. Use some of the leftover pumpkin pulp from your carving party or simply pick up a can of pumpkin at the grocery store.

 

Scoop with:

  • Graham crackers
  • Rice crackers
  • Honeycrisp apple slices
  • Soft pretzels

 

Painted Sugar Skull Pumpkins

If you’d rather not take a knife to your pumpkin, another option is to paint it to look like a sugar skull. This is much safer for little kids, since no sharp knives are involved. Be sure to choose a pumpkin with a smooth, even surface to make your no-carve sugar skull pumpkin. Paint the shape of the skull in white. Then, let your creativity loose as you decorate with colorful fine-tipped markers. Finish off your design by applying some glitter.

Surface Pumpkin Carving*

Another alternative to hollowing out and carving up your pumpkin is to simply carve a design onto the surface skin. The best tools for this kind of job are linoleum blades and wood chisels: They’ll allow you to scrape off thin sheets of pumpkin skin and flesh so you can create a relief pattern of a sugar skull or anything else you can dream up.

 

Avocado Pit Carving*

Don’t put up your blades and chisels just yet! Another fun Dia de Muertos arts and crafts activity is carving avocado pits. Etch a sugar skull into the surface of the pit or carve more deeply to completely sculp the pit into a new shape or figure. Let your finished piece dry for over 24 hours and finish the surface with oil or decorate with acrylic paint.

 

If you just can’t give up the Halloween tradition of carving, here are some tips that will make your experience easier and safer:

  • Choose a pumpkin that has a flat base. If you’re having trouble finding one, put a few small balls of modeling clay underneath it to create a base so your pumpkin won’t roll.
  • Use an ice cream scoop to empty out the pumpkin’s guts — and don’t forget to save and roast the seeds for a tasty treat!
  • Map out your design on the pumpkin with a dry-erase marker before you start cutting. You can erase and start over again if you make a mistake and wipe off marks left on the pumpkin after carving.
  • Smear petroleum jelly on cut areas to help preserve your design and keep it from drying out too quickly.

 

Check out these Halloween-themed snacks, perfect for a pumpkin carving party!

 

*Please be advised that using knives to carve pumpkins and avocado pits can be dangerous and should be performed with the utmost caution and only with adult supervision.

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