Delay the Decay ...Pumpkin Preservation made simple!
Let's not use a candle! ..whilst nice they often go out & cause stress in a display with the need for constant re-lighting & having matches to hand, noisy if you are in a costume, match packet "rustling" trying to be stealthy in order to surprise visitors! ..candles also dry out your pumpkin in a matter of hours, alternatives to candles are glowsticks, flashing bike led lights, a head torch etc..
I use Howler pumpkin lights exclusively for pumpkin lighting, they've demonstrated great build quality, durability & keenly demonstrate value for money...to date i've never had one fail on me despite drops & dunkings they continue to glow, strobe & flicker.
Whilst I do occasionally use candles they are usually to add atmosphere in outdoor lamps..
why make more work for yourself than necessary? .. a proper pumpkin light is a nice way to get a child interested in carving, knowing the end results will have them outdoing the local competition in their street.
Remember the bigger you go for a pumpkin carve, the more fluid it holds within its flesh, these things need basic hydration in order that your pumpkin stays firm & upright despite you having just carved it's guts within an inch of it's life , so when eyeing up a pumpkin you will need to consider a few things.
Will it fit in a bucket i've got kicking around at home? ..remember water displacement so you don't have to fill it to the brim!
For anything larger than supermaket "small" pumpkins, contemplate using a gardeners flexible trug, butler sink or similar unless you have a suitable dunk tank available, it doesn't necessarily have to completely immerse (& often wont regardless) but it does need to sit & soak occasionally from 20 minutes to a few hours, ..even overnight is fine!
Secondly,add a decent glug of thick bleach into the cold water you are refreshing your pumpkin with, stir it up, foam is fine! ..if bleaching the pumpkin, & I do recommend this with all real pumpkins, allow it to sit a while, roll it if necessary for complete bug-proofing penetrative effect.
Lastly, & with both hands, CAREFULLY lower your carved kin into the bleachy water in order to not weaken any finer cuts..
When it's had a wallow remove carefully allowing the water to drain back into the container for use again later / another day.. again being careful to drain slowly in case water tumbling out removes a piece of work, ..lets avoid damage or I'll have to write another page on fixing pumpkins with glue & cocktail sticks...
Grab an old towel or paper towels & dab it gently dry on the outer, allow the soaked interior to drain off a few times.
Now you are ready to display again!
I'm actually quite lazy about this, it works well, bleach is an inhibitor of mould growth & subsequent decay so your pumpkin whilst not edible (you made your choice) ..will be less prone to warm temperatures, slugs, any other nasties that will drain the life from your work.
With a good pumpkin & bleach dunk or two you could display for around 10-14 days & beyond! ..local weather allowing.
By the time you are ready to consign it to the council composting bin any bleach should have broken down completely (normally within 7 days) ..so doesn't require any special disposal.
The bleach dunk is also a good deterrent against nibbling critters!
My local Pumpkin farm displayed several pumpkins from the begining of October in a covered roadside wooden stall where they sell veg straight from the field, it is a cool environment, when I came to replace the kins for fresh carvings they had done no more to the kins, (no further dunking even) & after 14 days the design was withered but clearly visible, I revived them at home via a fresh bleach dunk & displayed for a few more nights...
All in all if you put the effort to carve in it needn't be a one night wonder.
Other folk suggest smearing vaseline (a petro chemical product, so nasty really) sealing over the exposed flesh. basically toiling away with cotton buds over the exposed pieces! ...hmm! no thankyou
I'm not a fan of this due to expense, time & messiness!
vaseline isn't necessarily cheap, it's sticky, doesnt degrade well, & what is the chance I can find it when I need it next year? .. overall, it's messy & takes too long for my liking
Bleach dunk's work well & costs mere pennies, if the bucket is in the way you can pour it down the toilet to freshen up your Loo! ..simple & most folk have a bottle of bleach under the sink anyway, so why spend on what you don't need?
Again this depends on the quality of your pumpkin from the outset, so another method, which I don't adhere to is to cling wrap it & stick the pumpkin in the fridge, ...hmm no thanks I keep mine for food & have no desire to upset the harmony of the household by blocking access to foodstuffs.
If push comes to shove soak it & cover or wrap it with a wet (preferably bleachy dampened) towel & stick it on some cardboard in a dark cool area such as the garage till required.