What is Bonfire Night and Where Did It Come From?
How is Bonfire Night celebrated?
Bonfire night known by a few names such as Guy Fawkes Night or Fireworks Night. It is celebrated annually throughout the UK on November 5th bonfires are lit and fireworks are set off across the whole of the UK to celebrate Bonfire Night. Some people organise small gatherings in their back garden to fire subtle pyrotechnics while others join thousands in watching some of the biggest professional firework displays across the country.
Traditionally an effigy of Guy is usually created using old clothing or straws. Which is then burnt in the bonfire in remembrance of the Gunpowder Plot. How ever more recently communities have made effigies of controversial world leaders, such as Donald Trump or Kim Jong Un
What was the Gunpowder Plot?
When James I took over the throne after Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had been prosecuted under her rule were in the hope that her successor would be more tolerant of their religion. Unfortunately, they discovered that James I was not any less harsh than his predecessor. In response, Robert Catesby led a group of 12 people to plan the Gunpowder Plot to have him and his government killed. This was on the day of Parliament opening on November 5. Guy Fawkes was part of this group and was highly sought after for his expertise with gunpowder.
Fawkes’ role was to source and ignite the gunpowder, he spent 18 months carefully planning. However the plot was foiled just hours before when he was caught red-handed and arrested on November 4 at midnight. 36 barrels of gun powder were found stacked in the cellar directly under where the King would have been sitting the following day.
Fawkes was sentenced to the traditional traitors’ death- to be ‘hanged, drawn and quartered’. He was tortured to death and his remains were sent to “the four corners of the kingdom” as a warning to others.
Guy Fawkes claim to fame
Guy was instantly the talk of the nation and the embodiment of Catholic extremism. His story served as a pretext for further repression of Catholics that wouldn’t be completely lifted for another 200 years.
But what is interesting is that Fawkes is remembered on the famous night and not the ring-leader, Robert Catesby. It could be because Fawkes was the one that was caught and executed publicly. Potentially it could have been because his name has a better ring to it as opposed to Robert Catesby Night?
History of Guy Fawkes’ traditions
It was in the 19th Century when Fawkes’ effigy started being placed on bonfires that were lit annually to commemorate the failure of the plot. This tradition still lives on today and is most popular in parts of the country including East Sussex, Lewes.
After it was discovered that the Gunpowder Plot had failed on November 5 1605, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the King and Parliament. And as every English resident knows, the event is commemorated annually and has great significance.
Fireworks are associated with Guy Fawkes Night as the main ingredient includes Gun Powder and therefore taps into the history of the event.
Traditional Bonfire Night Food
The Bonfires are used to heat-up soup for the crowd. which are poured in cups or to bake potatoes wrapped up in foil.
Traditional desserts including Bonfire toffee, also known as Treacle toffee. Parkin Cake is also commonly eaten on Bonfire Night; this is a traditional sponge cake from Northern England flavoured with syrupy molasses, oatmeal and ginger. But of course you these days you can find hot dogs and burgers at firework events. While the food is there to eat it also keeps your hands warm during the chilly nights of November
How are you gonna celebrate firework night?
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