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In recent years, the fake pumpkins are looking more and more realistic. And coming down in price. I look for these at 50% off at the crafts stores either in early October or just after Halloween. You can find nice ones for about $10. $20 if you don't find a sale. But you can use them year after year. You can buy them online too, but I don't want to pay those prices. I haven't put out a real pumpkin with a candle in it for years. Real pumpkins are traditional, but what a mess. Dangerous to carve, they don't last, they smell, they rot, open flame candles outdoors blow out in the wind, and they always seem to get smashed on your sidewalk. Hmmm....I wonder who does that?
My solution to all this is to buy the fake pumpkins (not the cheap plastic ones, but the ones that are made of the polyurethane stuff.) These are combustible too and you would never want to put a candle in there. What I use is my simple C7 Christmas light with the bulb stuck in a hole in upper back of the pumpkin. You can buy these lit pumpkins already made, but they never are very realistic. Better to buy a good fake pumpkin and modify it to your taste. Bonus is you can run you pumpkin lights off a timer with all of your other outdoor decorations.
When you use a C7 bulb, be sure to check to make sure your pumpkin around the bulb doesn't get too hot. Cutting out the face of the pumpkin will usually allow enough air flow to keep things cool, but you are on your own here! One more reason I like to keep these outside of the house for my home haunt. I usually epoxy a brick to the bottom of the fake pumpkins to keep them stable and discourage....shenanigans. If you don't want to deal with 120 VAC lights, then you can use some fake candles too! These multicolor LED battery operated lights or flickering yellow LED battery operated lights are becoming really popular!
To carve your fake pumpkin, there is simply is no better tool then a Dremel with a cutting wheel and little grinding bits. You can put a paper template on the face, poke a nail to make little holes around the outline of what you want to cut out, then Dremel away! You can find templates for pumpkin faces all over the Web. Here is the most menacing pumpkin face I've ever seen! No template for it, but wow...does this give one ideas. Hats off to the creativity of the person that made this one!
Here's a great idea for using fake pumpkins. Pumpkins eating pumpkins!
You can even make a cylon pumpkin!