Monday 5 November 2012

Every Country Needs an Excuse for Fireworks...

... and in Britain, its Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night (or day). 

The story goes that on 5 November 1605, a man named Guy Fawkes (and his cronies) tried to blow up the House of Lords in an attempt to assassinate King James I.  Fawkes had 36 barrels of gunpowder that would have surely done the job, but someone tipped off one of the Lords and the men were caught in the act. The people of England were apparently so happy that the King had not been killed, they lit bonfires in celebration.  A few months later, the 'Observance of the 5th of November 1605' act was passed in Parliament and November 5th became an annual public holiday.

And what happened to Guy Fawkes? Eight members of the Gunpowder Plot were captured and eventually sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.  Ouch.

In modern Britain, Bonfire Night is often celebrated with fireworks instead of a bonfire (likely due to health and safety concerns). Some towns and villages will host a public bonfire (and sometimes they will burn a lifesize Guy Fawkes doll thingie) and you do still get the odd person thinking they can manage their own bonfire in their garden or something, but this is usually a pretty bad idea. It likely won't come as a surprise that the London Fire Brigade responded to a call for an out of control bonfire every 10 minutes on last year's bonfire night.  Leave it to the experts folks.

'Guy' burning
Sadly, the tradition of Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night is being pushed aside by the growing popularity of Halloween.  When I moved here even just three years ago, you could hardly find a pumpkin in a store, much less costumes and cookies and pumpkin shaped cakes and now Halloween is a £300 million business in the UK.

Do your part to keep UK traditions alive - do a search here to see if there are any celebrations around you.  Many will have taken place last weekend, but there are still some to come.

Oh and if you have pets, Bonfire Night (just like Forth of July) can be a scary time - keep them safe and happy!


  1. "A few months later, the 'Observance of the 5th of November 1605' act was passed in Parliament and November 5th became an annual public holiday."

    Holiday? I've never known it to be a public holiday, just a celebration of the failure to blow up the Houses of Parliament, although lately (in the past 10 years) I've come to the conclusion that it's not such a bad idea after all.:-)

  2. A Nottingham blogger wrote the same thing, but in my part of England I'm happy to say Halloween & Bonfire Night are co-existing quite nicely. I think trick-or-treating was the biggest yet, while we've had 2 weeks of fireworks down here. Who knows if they'll make it three? We've never shot off big fireworks before, but without fears of mid-summer wildfires, we might give it a go around New Years? We've always been more of a 'sparklers' family :)

  3. hol·i·day [hol-i-dey]
    1. a day fixed by law or custom on which ordinary business is suspended in commemoration of some event or in honor of some person.

    Sorry Dave - Wikipedia used the term 'public holiday'; who am I to argue?

  4. Just goes to show that you can't always believe what you read on Wikipedia but perhaps we should push the government for a day off of work, I suspect though in these PC times that Catholics wouldn't be too happy about it, maybe we should go for Trafalgar day instead but then we'd probably upset the French..........

  5. Trust me - you dont want to piss off the Catholics! :)
    I propose some kind of multicultural day where everyone cooks a traditional dish, wears traditional garb and throws street parties. Rule #1 - you have to have at least four cultures represented at each party. Rule #2 - Americans cannot bring hamburgers. Rule #3 - if you can't get along and be respectful, you have to go to work instead.