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Selecting the pumpkins you'll carve for your Halloween Jack-O'-Lanterns is very important. You'll need to pick pumpkins according to what you want to carve on them.

Whether it's simply carving a pumpkin to sit on the door step or holding pumpkin carving parties and contests, this age old tradition is a main event for young and old alike.

Depending on the variety, pumpkins can range in size anywhere from tiny to humongous. Medium sized ones work best for most stencils that you'll make or buy. Very large pumpkins can be carved with elaborate designs and used as "center pieces" on your porch or tables. Small pumpkins work fine for carving traditional faces, they can be done fast and you can have many of them scattered about for parties, haunts or up your sidewalk  as a lighted pathway.

Advance planning is the key to your pumpkin carving success

First, decide before buying your pumpkins what designs you will be carving into them. This will allow you to create a shopping list or at least a mental idea of the shapes and sizes of pumpkins you'll need.

For standard carving without a stencil, decide if it should be tall and narrow, or more rounded, based on your ideas. Select pumpkins that are uniformly orange meaning that are ripe, have no bruises, cuts or nicks.

If you will be using a stencil to carve your pumpkin, select a pumpkin that is large enough and as close to the same shape as the pattern you're going to carve. It should be as smooth as possible, and free of scratches, dents or gouges.

Never carry a pumpkin by its stem; it may break. If it does break-off you can use toothpicks as a basic patch. Care should be taken not to bruise during transport or storage, as this will shorten their life-span.

If you find a perfect pumpkin but it's missing it's stem, have no fear! You can still use it! Just carve the bottom out  for the opening  the same way you would do the top. Then, you just sit your light source on the cleaned bottom piece and sit the pumpkin over it. Works great and you don't need the stem for a lid handle!

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