Here’s something I wrote a couple of years ago, at about this time of year:
It’s that time of year when things change, the seasons change, autumn is dying away into winter, and the year is heading towards its end.
With all the dark all around us, it becomes the dark season; all sorts of festivities take place across the country, celebrations and ritual to ward off evil and bring the forces of good to see us through these long nights. Such activities go back probably to the earliest times when people lived through winters, hoping for spring.
Hallowe’en maybe the most well-known, and it is recognized as the day or eve before All Saints, or All Hallows day. However, these rituals of having lights and fire carried through the streets or placed in windows is much older than the Christian church; however, I’m not going to go over my thoughts about Hallowe’en.
I read an article today about all the different traditions and customs going back centuries and more. In Hinton St George in Somerset, our county, there is Punkie night, when lanterns – originally carved from turnips or mangelwurzels but these days more likely to be pumpkins, are carried round the village as the children sing the Punkie song. In Cheshire there is souling or soul caking or soul caulking, in which mummers go round performing a little play and handing out cakes. A similar thing happens in Kent but it’s called hoodening.
Many of these traditions involve wishes for a good harvest next year, as harvest time this year draws to a close. There is Apple Howling, there is wassailing, and all sorts of similar customs involving apple trees. There are many, many celebrations involving fire and bonfires, maybe the most famous is Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night, remembering the plot against Parliament by Guy Fawkes; he tried to blow it up, but was burned at the stake himself. For us here in Somerset, the Carnival tradition was started in Bridgwater to commemorate the Gunpowder Plot, and now every year, at the beginning of November, carnival floats parade round the streets of local towns.