For the last few years, my husband and I have gotten together with friends a couple weeks before Halloween to embrace some pumpkin carving fun! None of us have kids (or much artistic ability) but it's still a great reason to get together and an easy gathering to plan. Here is what you'll want to do:
Pre-determine a location. You are probably not going to want to do this in your house. The grown-ups I know are just as messy as most 5-year-olds and you'll be sweeping up pumpkin seeds on Labor Day. The backyard works well if the weather is still pleasant enough. You can use the garage as shelter from the elements if there's a chill in the air. Wherever you are; clear enough space to give everyone plenty of room to work.
Gather supplies and prepare the space. Pull out your folding tables if you have them.
Collect newspapers to cover everyone's carving space. Make sure you have enough to give everyone a couple layers.
Put an empty trash can in a central location for most* of the pumpkin seeds. Use a heavy duty trash bag or double up on the household kind. Those seeds get heavy!
Print and set out pumpkin stencils for those who don't want to freehand. Better Homes & Gardens has a huge (and free!) selection here. For some tips on carving with stencils, check out Pumpkin Carving 101.
Have a sharpie and a pumpkin carving kit for everyone or ask them bring their own. This way, you don't have to sacrifice your good steak knives to a jack-o-lantern.
Have a lot of rags or paper towels on hand.
Finally - have tea lights for each pumpkin!
Find your perfect pumpkin. We like to make this part of the event for the whole group. Head to your local pumpkin patch so everyone can select their canvas.
And a couple suggestions for easy, festive additions!
You can't beat hot spiked apple cider to keep everyone warm. Use fresh apple cider, spiced rum and some cinnamon sticks and whole cloves (to taste)
Heat apple cider in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Stir occasionally. When cider is heated, remove cinnamon sticks and cloves with a slotted spoon.
Pour a shot of rum into a mug, then pour cider over to fill mug. Add a cinnamon stick to stir drink.
To keep things easy, hold your pumpkin carving party in the evening, post dinner. This way, some light snacks will be sufficient (remember - this is supposed to be an easy one!). Last year, I had some candy corn, Halloween-theme Oreos and some popcorn for guests to snack on. You can also *save the seeds from the first few pumpkins to be gutted. Roast some up using butter/olive oil and salt or this recipe from Fabulous Foods. By the time the carving has ended you'll have a seasonal snack ready for your guests.
Let the fun begin!