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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about Punkie Night. This ghoulish celebration in England includes a parade of children carrying carved out and glowing vegetables called punkies.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. In England, the last Thursday of October is called Punkie Night, a time of celebration and song.

(Music up and under: punk rock)

CURWOOD: No, no, no, not that Punkie Night song. This one:

GILLMAN: It's Punkie Night tonight. It's Punkie Night tonight. Give us a candle, give us a light, it's Punkie Night tonight...

CURWOOD: That's Cecil Gillman. We reached him at his home in Chiselborough, England, where he is the Master of Ceremonies of the Punkie Night celebration. Each year, he leads the children of the village in a ghostly procession through unlighted streets, singing the traditional Punkie Night song.

GILLMAN: It's Punkie Night tonight. It's Punkie Night tonight. Eee, eye, diddley dee, it's Punkie Night tonight.

CURWOOD: A punkie is a lantern carved from mangolds, a vegetable similar to a turnip but the size of a small pumpkin and the same color orange. Legend has it that Punkie Night commemorates a day of drunken revelry at the Chiselborough Fair. Having imbibed too much hard cider, the men of the nearby village of Hinton St. George failed to return home. But after dark, their women went out to round them up. They used carved-out mangolds fitted with candles and hanging from strings to light their way. From afar, the punkies resembled their namesakes, eerie flames of marsh gas believed to be the souls of unbaptized children. A sobering sight indeed. Punkie Night lives on today in Hinton St. George and Chiselborough. The annual festivities conclude with the punkie judging contest, in which the most grotesque designs are rewarded for their ghoulishness. And with thanks for a bit of punkie music from Albert Avery, that's this week's Living on Earth Almanac.



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