Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Hinton St George Punky Night 2015

hinton st george 149The Somerset village of Hinton St George claims to have been holding its annual Punky Night on the last Thursday in October for at least 250 years.  It is said that the custom started after village women made lanterns by placing candles inside hollowed out mangolds (Beta vulgaris ssp. vulgaris cv.) before setting out to find their drunken husbands who had gone to Chiselborough fair.

The 2015 event was held on the evening 29 October.  People gathered outside the village hall at 7 0’clock and soon after set off around the village carrying their lanterns.  Both children and adults carried lanterns, mostly made of hollowed-out mangolds, or, occasionally, pumpkins. The mangolds, which according to a woman in the village shop were specially grown for the event, were smaller than those fed to cattle. A few of the children wore fancy dress.  Not all of the participants carried lanterns, and those who did so made little effort to display them; people simply walked around the village leisurely chatting to each other.  The ‘parade’ was led by a man with a bell who wore a top hat and occasionally brought people to a halt.  Two or three hinton st george 153attempts were made at reciting the punky song, ‘It’s punky night tonight, It’s punky night tonight …’   A few elderly people waited to see the parade pass, and a few opened their front doors and looked out as it passed, but most people seemed to stay indoors and took no interest.

On arrival back at the village hall people went inside and the lanterns were judged according to the ages of their carvers.  The youngest group being ‘under fives’; surely no children under five carve mangolds?  There was no amplification when the results were announced and the whole event lacked any theatrical excitement.

See also Mangold, on the Collected Material page of this website.

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