Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Punky Night, Hinton St George, 2017

Hinton St George, a small village in Somerset, held its annual Punky Night on Thursday 26 November.  This event, said to be over 250 years old, basically consists of villagers walking around the village carrying carved out mangolds (Beta vulgaris cv.) with lighted candles placed inside them.  It is said to have started after the village women made such lanterns to light their way when they went to collect their drunken menfolk from nearby Chiselborough Fair.  The fair ended late in the nineteenth century, but Punky Night continues.

In 2017 people gathered in the village hall from 6 o’clock to hear a storyteller relate the Chiselborough Fair legend, before forming a ‘parade’ of about 70 or more people.  Probably less than a third of the people carried hollowed out mangolds.  The parade was led round the village by the storyteller (not a local person, so she had to rely on the organisers for guidance) who rang a handbell, and an elderly man playing a fiddle.  At various places the parade stopped and people, without a great deal of enthusiasm, sang the punky song.

After the circuit of the village had been completed  everyone returned to the village hall, where tea and cakes were available, and  the punkies were judged, there being three age groups:  under 5, 5-10 and over 10.  By about 7.30 the whole event was over and people returned home.  It is rumoured that the current organiser wants to retire, so there may be changes in future years.

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