Punky Night

Punky (Punkie) Night

Last Thursday in October
In the English village of Hinton St. George, Somerset, it is traditional for both children and adults to walk through town carrying "punkies," or lanterns made from carved-out mangel-wurzels, or mangolds (a variety of beet), with candles in them. Some say that the custom originated when parish women made crude vegetable lanterns to guide their husbands home after a long evening at the local pub. October 28 was traditionally the date for the Chiselborough Fair, and it was not uncommon for the men to drink too much and get lost in the fields on their way home.
Although this custom is observed in other English towns, the celebration at Hinton St. George is by far the best established. There is a procession of children carrying punkies through the streets, begging for money, and singing the "punky song." A prize is given out for the best carved punky. There is no evidence that the name "punky" came from "pumpkin," but the custom is very similar to what takes place on Halloween in the United States, where carved, candlelit pumpkins are displayed in windows and on doorsteps.
SOURCES:
DictDays-1988, p. 92
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 603
OxYear-1999, p. 394