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How to Carve a Military-Themed Pumpkin: Free Pumpkin Stencils

Some of my most memorable Halloween celebrations were held at the units where my husband worked.

I can still hear everyone's laughter, the smell of the fog machine in the haunted hallway, and I remember how creative the Army Families were with their costumes. Everyone brought their favorite food to share, and we enjoyed each other's company.

I also remember the hayrides and, for the first time, learning about "Trick or Trunk." This may have been just another holiday in the calendar year for some, but for me, it was a time to make those bonds with my Army family. And when my husband was deployed, our son and I would continue building those memories by participating each year.

One thing we used to always do is decorate pumpkins! There are many ways to decorate your pumpkins - paint, stickers, markers, carve it - it is up to your imagination.

One year, with a coupon, I bought a carvable plastic pumpkin (above). I didn't get the added benefit of roasting pumpkin seeds, but I get to see this pumpkin every year!

If you're looking for inspiration, we've put together some military-themed pumpkins and included the free pumpkin stencils to get you started!

Pumpkin carving tips and techniques

  1. Choose your pumpkin! The size, color, and texture will set the tone for your jack-O’-lantern. One with a large smooth surface area on one of its sides may make it easier to draw or trace a design.
  2. Find a clean flat surface. Wipe your pumpkin and select your carving tools. Then decide whether you want to cut the bottom or the top. If choosing the top of the pumpkin, cut off at a 45-degree angle to support the lid from not falling through. If choosing the bottom, cutting a straight flat bottom that will help it stabilize and sit better.
  3. Scoop out the insides. If you are a baker, the pumpkin and seeds make for great recipes. Carve the inner wall of the pumpkin to about ½ to 1 inch thick.
  4. Select your favorite design that is proportioned to the size of your pumpkin. You are welcome to download one of the free pumpkin stencils we provided.
  5. If using one of these stencils, secure the stencil to your pumpkin with tape.
  6. Trace the design or stencil by poking small holes along the outline of it or by pressing hard with a pen so you can see the indentations when carving your pumpkin.
  7. To ensure safety, carve slowly and away from yourself and others nearby.
  8. Petroleum Jelly, diluted bleach or tea tree oil with water, and cooler temperatures have been utilized to help preserve the carved edges. My pumpkins have always lasted outside, so I choose not to use anything.
  9. Decorate or illuminate your pumpkin with battery-operated candles or lights.
  10. Take a picture and Enjoy!

Halloween 2020 Ideas for Military Families

In 2020, your Halloween festivities may look different than most years; however, you can still carry on some of those traditions while embracing some new ones.

Think of all the fantastic ways to build those memories at home and virtually share them with your friends, family back home or service member abroad.

You don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun. It's all about making those memories. Beyond the military-themed pumpkin stencils, here are a few budget-friendly festivities that my family has done throughout the years.

Halloween Homemade costumes

Take a look around your house. Check your closets, storage, and garage. What is available for you to use to create a costume?

One year, my husband and I were hosting a unit Halloween party in our home. We wanted to share the message that Halloween costumes can be inexpensive, so we took two cardboard boxes and some spray paint and became a "pair of dice." We sure did have fun making them together, and it didn't cost us a dime.

Halloween Decorations

Halloween decorations can be quick and easy. A few of my favorites are:

  • A few drops of food coloring in a glass jar filled with water can make anything you add to it look scary.
  • The beautiful fall leaves on the ground make for festive decorations around the house.
  • Stuff some old clothes from your closet to make a scarecrow. Better yet, each member of your family can make a scarecrow of their own.

Halloween Games

Bobbing for apples, pin the nose on the pumpkin, guess how many candies in the glass jar, relay races, cornhole, scavenger hunt, charades, and karaoke. These are just a few games that can be adaptable for all ages, let alone lots of fun for the family.

Halloween Food

A skeleton centerpiece on your table to hold your spooky food, mummy hotdogs, Halloween stuffed peppers, witches broomsticks, Oreo dirt cake with worms, and shrunken heads in cider. Goody bags are an extra treat.

What I have found about celebrating Halloween is that the inexpensive creative things are much more appreciated than those you can buy in the store. The most important thing is to be creative, have spooktacular fun, and build those memories. Happy Halloween!

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