image: title
Project Britain
Folklore Calendar
stories, sayings, customs
Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sept | Oct | Nov | Dec
A month by month of forgotten legends and pastimes from Britain's folk history
image: back to main page

Facts about October
Including Punky Night and Halloween

Gemstone: Opal
Flower: Calendula


In the old Roman calendars, October was the eighth month of the year and got its name from the word 'Octo' meaning eight.

The Saxons called it Wyn Monath because it was the season of wine making.

All year round Autumn Colours

During October, the leaves begin to change colour, transforming England’s landscape into an array of autumn colours.

Leaves change colour in October/ November
Autumn Colours

7All year round Lost Traveller Story

In Hampshire, in the eighteenth century, a Mr William Davis was riding home when a heavy fog surrounded him, and in no time at all he found that he had lost his way.

Suddenly, he heard the bells from his church start to ring, so he followed the sound and arrived safely home.

Later on he worked out that he must have been only a few yards away from chalk pits, where the ground had been dug deeply. Had he gone any further, he would have been killed.

When Mr Davis died in 1754, he left some money in his will. The money was to pay the bellringers to ring the church bells at 6:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. on 7th October every year, to help travellers find their direction should they get lost on the same night he had been lost.

10thAll year round Old Michaelmas Day (10th)

After the calendar reform of 1752, some activities traditionally associated with Michaelmas Day (29 September) moved forward eleven days to 10 October, which is sometimes called 'Old Michaelmas Day'. Mop Fairs or Hiring Fairs took place on an around Michaelmas Day.

All year round Mop Fairs (Hiring Fairs)

Michaelmas used to be the time for 'Mop' or Hiring Fairs. Servants and farm labourers would work from October to October and then go to the centre of the village or town to hire themselves out again for the next year.

People looking for work would dress in their best clothes, and to let people know what work they wanted, they used to wear or carry some sign of their work. Maids, looking for work, would carry a small mop (that's where we get the name Mop Fairs from), a shepherd had wool,a gardener had flowers and so on.

The new masters and mistresses would walk around the fair and talk to the people. When they had come to an agreement, they gave the servant a small token - maybe something like 5p. The servant would then remove the sign of his job and replace it with a bunch of brightly coloured ribbons to let everyone else know that he had been hired.

Mop Fairs Today

The custom remains today in some towns and villages around the country. Several towns in Warwickshire enjoy the spectacle and the fun from the holding of the annual mop fair.

12thIn Stratford, which is home to one of the country's biggest fairs, the mop became a funfair after World War I. On the first morning of the fair, which is almost always on or near 12 October, children of the town go on the rides of the funfair free of charge.

18All year round St Luke's Day (18th)

Traditionally a day when girls could have some insight into their future marriage prospects. Before going to bed they must put on their faces a mixture of spices, honey and vinegar, and once in bed they must say the following rhyme:

St Luke, St Luke, be kind to me,
In dreams let me my true love see.

Dog Whipping Day

St Luke's Day is also know as Dog Whipping Day, when all the stray dogs in the streets had to be whipped out of town.

St Luke's Little Summer

St Luke's day is often at the centre of a spell of particularly fine weather known as St Luke's Little Summer.

All year round Weather-lore, beliefs and sayings

Rain in October
Means wind in December.

When birds and badgers are fat in October,
Expect a cold winter

When berries are many in October
Beware a hard winter.

In October dung your fields
And your land its wealth shall yield.

If ducks do slide at Hallowtide,
At Christmas they will swim;
If ducks do swim at Hallowtide
At Christmas they will slide.

Always will there be Twenty-nine fine days in October.

If the October moon comes without frost,
expect no frost till the moon of November.

All year round Festivals and Traditions

01English Pudding Season (1st)

Traditionally this was the date on which the English pudding season started. These were filled with steak, leaks, mushrooms, spices and some were cooked for as long as sixteen hours.

04St Francis Day (4th)

swallowOn St Francis Day swallows are supposed to fly to the bottom of ponds and hibernate through the winter.

In the days before the idea of migration was understood, this seemed a reasonable explanation for their sudden disappearance. The fact that swallows skim the surface of ponds for insects may have been the starting point for this particular folklore.

01 Apple Day
2010 is the 21st anniversary of Apple Day - it is now celebrated by thousands at hundreds of events all run by local people - Common Ground initiated it with the hope it would become a calendar custom open to all to celebrate nature and culture symbolised by the apple - which began its life in the Tien Shan (the Heavenly Mountains - now China /Kazakh/Kirgyzs border) and over millennia wandered to these shores.

01Punky Night

PunkyPunky Night falls on the last Thursday in October and is a Somerset tradition.

Some time in the Middle Ages, all the men of Hinto St George went off to a fair. When they failed to return that evening, the women went looking for them by the light of punkies.

Punky is another name for a pumpkin which has been hollowed out and has a candle standing inside it.

Traditionally on this night, children in the South of England would carve their ‘Punkies’, (pumpkins) into Jack O'Lanterns. Once carved the children would go out in groups and march through the streets, singing traditional ‘punky’ songs, calling in at friendly houses and competing for best lantern with rival groups they meet. The streets would be lit with the light of the Punkies.

Nowadays, on Punky Night in Hinton St George, Somerset, local children join a procession through the village streets, swinging their homemade lanterns and going house to house, singing traditional ‘punky’ songs and sometimes getting a few pennies at the front door.

It's Punky Night, tonight,
It's Punky Night, tonight,
Give us a candle, give us a light.
It's Punky Night, tonight.It's Punky Night, tonight,
It's Punky Night, tonight,
Adam and Eve, wouldn't believe
It's Punky Night, tonight.

31 Halloween October 31st (Eve of All Hallows)

On October 31st, we celebrate Halloween,
thought to be the one night of the year when ghosts, witches, and fairies are especially active.
Find out more about HalloweenUnusual Customs

All year round Anniversaries

1st October 1870 The first official issue of the post card was made in Britain by the Post Office together with the introduction of the halfpenny postage stamp.
1st October 1908 The first Model T Ford was introduced by Henry Ford.
1st October 1974 American fast-food chain, McDonald's, opens its first British outlet in London.
1st October 2000 Last commercial Hover Craft flight across the English Channel.
2nd October 1925 The first of London's now traditional red buses - with roofed-in upper decks goes into service after the lifting of restrictions that had prevented such buses being used in the capital city.
3rd October 1906 S.O.S. was established as an international distress signal.
3rd October 1916 James Herriot (famous vet and author) was born.
3rd October 1959 The Post Code required in addressing of mail for mechanical sorting was first used in Britain at Norwich.
3rd October 1990 East and West Germany re-united and became one country.
4th October 1905 Orville Wright became the first to fly an aircraft for over 33 minutes.
4th October St. Francis of Assissi's Saint's day. St. Francis died on this day in 1226. Prior to seeing a vision of Jesus and becoming a saint, Francis, a rich young man, had wasted his money in riotous living.
6th October 1769 British explorer Captain James Cook, on board his ship the 'Endeavour' discovers New Zealand.
8th October 1965 The Post Office Tower (now Telecom Tower) in Maple Street, London was opened.
10th October 1886 Dinner jacket first worn.
10th October 1881 In London, the Savoy Theatre, Britain's first public building to be lit by electricity, opens with a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Patience'.
11th October 1968 Apollo 7 was launched from Cape Kennedy, making it the first manned flight of the Command Module that would carry men to the moon.
11th October 1982 The Mary Rose, Henry VIII's flag ship, was raised from its position on the bed of The Solent- 437 years after sinking while still in harbour.
12th October Columbus Day – USA.
12th October The first Morris Minor family car is built at Cowley in Oxford.
13th October 1884 Greenwich Mean Time started.
14th October 1066

The Battle of Hastings (or Battle of Senlac Hill) on the southern coast of England. An English army, commanded by King Harold, is defeated by the invasion force of William of Normandy. King Harold is killed and William'The Conqueror' is proclaimed King of England.

14th October 1884 Photographic film patented.
14th October 1926 Winnie-the-Pooh was first published. Written by A.A. Milne (1882-1956).
14th October 1979 Sony invents the first Walkman, over 3 billion sold in the first 20 years.
16th October 1834 The original Houses of Parliament in London are almost completely destroyed by fire.
16th October 1958 Britain's most popular children's television programme 'Blue Peter' is first broadcast on BBC TV. The first presenters are Leila Williams and Christopher Trace.
18th October St. Luke’s Day. One of the four Gospel writer’s and patron saint of doctors.
20th October 1966 The first message was sent between two computers in California, USA.
21st October 1805 The Battle of Trafalgar. A British fleet under Admiral Horatio Nelson defeats a combined French and Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar, fought off the coast of Spain. At the height of the engagement on October 21, Nelson was mortally wounded while pacing the quarterdeck of the HMS Victory. He died a few hours later, and his body was solemnly brought back to England for burial. In London, a column was erected to his memory in the newly named Trafalgar Square.
23rd October 1642 The Battle of Edgehill between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads.
24th October United Nations Day
25th October St Crispin's Day, Patron Saint of Shoemakers.
25th October Anniversay of Battle of Agincourt fought in 1415.
25th October Anniversary of the Charge of the Light Brigade, from the Battle of Balaclava in 1854
28th October Feast of St. Jude. Patron saint of ‘hopeless cases’.
31st October Halloween / All Hallows Eve.

All year round

Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sept | Oct | Nov | Dec


back to the top

email© Copyright - please read
All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the Mandy Barrow.

Facts and information about LondonBritish Royal FamilyVirtual Tour of the Thames

Special facts and information about each month of the yearInformation on Britain and the UK for Kids of all agesBritish History

© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

Follow Mandy on Twitter

Woodlands Junior Homework Help new website