2013-10-24 / From The Garden

Cultural Legends of the Jack-o’-Lantern

The English ‘Punkie Night’
By Cynthia Gibson

Mangold in Germany is called a mangel-wurzel. Mangold in Germany is called a mangel-wurzel. The most familiar icon of Halloween is the pumpkin, which has been fashioned into lanterns for centuries. There is charm about them. Many are childlike, of course, carved by children. However, today’s carvings sometimes rise to the level of a new art form. Do not be intimidated by the overly-ambitious designs. The oldfashioned triangle eyes do just fine. The holiday itself is a bit spooky, so select your pumpkin from one of our many fields this week.

In Somerset, England, a special song was written for what we call Halloween. “Punkie” is old English for pumpkin. The children in the village, particularly of Hinton St. George, have a very old song they sing.

Over 100 years ago, the English legend goes, the men from the village of Hinton St. George wen tto the nearby village of Chiselborough where there was a fair. The fair took place the fourth Thursday in October. The men did not return as promised, so the women of the village went looking for them night with lit mangold lanterns. mangold is a gigantic orange beet. In Germany, it is called a mangelwurzel. The mangolds were carved out and a small candle was placed inside. Can you picture the women going out to the field, digging mangold, carving them, and marching off to Chiselborough, which is four miles from Hinton St. George? To commemorate this old tale, the children of both of these villages parade through their towns at dusk carrying their carved mangolds or “punkies. “ They even have a contest for the most uniquely-carved punkie. This tradition continues today and is now celebrated as Halloween. Sounds a bit like our great Ballard Park filled with carved punkies.

It’s Punkie Night Tonight
Its Punkie Night Tonight
Its Punkie Night Tonight
Give us a candle, give us a light
It’s Punkie Night Tonight
It’s Punkie Night Tonight
It’s Punkie Night Tonight
Adam and Eve won’t believe
It’s Punkie Night Tonight”.

Jazzin’ Jack-o’-Lantern

Should you be giving a Halloween party, spray-painting your pumpkins gold and silver has been a very chic idea that withstands time. Black spray paint is a fun variation. First, clean out the interior of the pumpkin. Spray-paint it black and let it dry. Then carve your design. If you place your black pumpkin outdoors at night, you will only see the spooky orange design from the inside of the pumpkin. The candle burning within will create all of the magic.

Return to top