Punkie Night

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A punkie is a hollowed out mangold-wurzel, with shapes cut through the sides, and a lighted candle inside. The children of Hinton St George, Somerset, parade the village streets on the last Thursday in October, with their lighted punkies, calling at different houses in the hope of receiving money or sweets, singing:It's punkie night tonightIt's punkie night tonightGive us a candle, give us a lightIt's punkie night tonight

There is nowadays a competition for the best punkie designs. A local legend purports to explain the custom's origin. The village menfolk went to Chiselborough Fair, and got too drunk to find their way home. Their wives fashioned lanterns out of mangoldwurzels and went to fetch them. The problem with this explanation is that it implies that the men only got drunk at Chiselborough once. The neighbouring village of Lopen claims the custom (and legend) as their own, and other villages have started punkie nights.

K. Palmer, Folklore 83 (1972), 240–4;Kightly, 1986: 191;Hole, 1975: 96–7.

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