Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Punkie Night

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Miss bat punkie night

Punkie Night is a Westcountry custom practised on the last Thursday of October related to Halloween in Somerset in England. Children will march around with a jack o'lantern, singing a song which goes :


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It's Punkie Night tonight
It's Punkie Night tonight
Adam and Eve would not believe
It's Punkie Night tonight

There are some variants of this old rhyme which also include these lines:

"Give me a candle, give me a light If you don't, you'll get a fright"

or alternatively:

"Give me a candle give me light If you haven't a candle, a penny's all right"

(Cooper & Sullivan, 1994).

As Cooper and Sullivan (1994) explain, this relates to the tradition where children would beg for candles on this night, and threaten people who refused to give them anything (compare the custom of Trick or Treat). Cooper and Sullivan also explain how a Punkie King and a Punkie Queen would typically lead the proceedings.

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Origins of the custom

Punkie Night Hinton St George Punkie Night

No one knows how the custom originated, although it is almost certainly linked with Hallowe'en and similar traditions can be found across the Westcountry. As Morrell (1977) explains, the word "Punkie" is an old English name for a lantern, and jack o'lanterns for Punkie Night may be made of swedes or mangel-wurzels rather than pumpkins. An alternative explanation of the term is that it is derived from pumpkin or punk, meaning tinder. Cooper and Sullivan (1994) attribute the custom's origins to a fair which was at one time held at Chiselborough. Men who would come back late from the fair would often need candles as lights to guide them home, in late October, which, as Cooper and Sullivan explain, would lead either to women making a jack o'lantern for their husbands, or men making the jack o'lantern, according to different versions of story.

Punkie Night Hinton St George Punkie Night

Morrell explains how, in earlier times, farmers would put a traditional "Punkie" on their gates to ward off evil spirits at this time of year.

The festival has been celebrated at various sites including Castle Neroche in the Blackdown Hills, Long Sutton and, more commonly, at Hinton St George and the neighbouring village of Lopen. In Ireland there is a similar halloween tradition called Pooky night, Pooky (welsh:Pwca, Cornish Bucca being a Celtic name for faeries or sprites. Children dress up in costumes going from door to door asking for treats for the pooky.


Punkie Night Wikipedia