The Everyday Lore Project

29 October 2020 – Punkie Night

29 October 2020 – Punkie Night

Oh the disappointment. But considering I sewed them about three months too late, I only have myself to blame.

It’s Punkie Night. On the last Thursday of every October, the good citizens of Hinton St George in Somerset, maraud for candles to light up their mangelwurzels singing:

It’s Punkie Night tonight, it’s Punkie Night tonight,
Give us a candle, give us a light,
If you don’t you’ll get a fright / If you haven’t a candle a penny’s all right;
It’s Punkie Night tonight, it’s Punkie Night tonight,
Adam and Eve would never believe it’s Punkie Night tonight.

The mangelwurzels, or punkies are hollowed out like Jack-o’-lanterns and paraded round the streets, trick or treat style. The legend goes, some wives were after fetching their feckless husbands back from the now defunct Chiselborough Fair, and ran out of lamp oil, so raided nearby fields for mangelwurzels to improvise new lamps from. And Punkie Night was born. 

So, given it’s hard to find a mangelwurzel round these parts, I decided to grow my own. Only I decided this in July. And despite all the lavishing of loving care and attention, it really wasn’t enough time at all. So when I came to hollow out my mangelwurzels today, my crop was decidedly disappointing.

One. And it was tiny. Far too tiny to hollow out and shove a candle in. 

However, I did manage an awesome crop on mangelwurzel leaves. And as they taste a bit like spinach, I shall scarf them at the earliest opportunity. 

And as for my mangelwurzel, I stuck a pair of googly eyes on it.

Because everything feels better when you stick a pair of googly eyes on it. 

The Everyday Lore Project has been running since St Distaff’s Day on 7 January 2020 and will run until 12th Night on 6 January 2021. Everyday I subject myself to some sort of folklore and write about it. Much like the above. But usually with better results. Usually. Anyhow, I’m still after some ideas for what to do for Halloween, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments! Also, if you’re that way inclined, please subscribe and share my posts, as it’s not long now until the project’s over.


Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books

Vickery, R. (2019) Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.