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Bonfire Night 2023 –
Guy Fawkes Day
Guy Fawkes Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated across the United Kingdom each year on the 5th of November. It is celebrated with bonfires, fireworks, and sparklers. The celebration dates back over 400 years and marks the unsuccessful assassination attempt of King James I.
The informal term that we may call a male “guy”, comes from the Englishman Guy Fawkes or Guido Fawkes. Guy adopted the Italian name Guido name while fighting in Spain.
Guy Fawkes Poem
The Fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot;
For I see no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Why Do We Celebrate Guy Fawkes?
We don’t celebrate Guy Fawkes, we celebrate the unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government and to kill a protestant king. Guy Fawkes was a member of a group of English Catholics who were part of the Gunpowder Plot to try and kill Protestant King James I in 1605. The group made up of 13 men planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament when the King was in attendance. This was an attempt to install a Catholic head of state. Fawkes himself was in charge of the gunpowder barrels that had been positioned under the Parliament, however, he was caught after the King received a letter warning him of the plot. Fawkes was executed for his crimes. The actual leader of the group was Robert Catesby, not Guy Fawkes.
As a way of celebrating the failed attempt and the fact that the King survived, bonfires were lit around London, and this is how the celebration began.
How is Guy Fawkes Day Celebrated?
Nowadays, bonfires are lit in many towns and cities across the country, and a ‘guy’ made from paper, straw, and clothes is burnt. Fireworks are also commonplace due to the event’s connection with gunpowder, and people gather to socialize and watch the fireworks on this cold November evening.
My husband describes Guy Fawkes Day with the following memories. “We would create a ‘Guy Fawkes’ with old clothes and usually stuff them with newspapers. The traditional Guy Fawkes mask would be included. We used to go door-to-door, similar to Halloween, saying, “A penny for the Guy?” The penny that was collected from neighbors, family, and friends would be used to buy the fireworks for the night. At night a bonfire would be lit and the Guy Fawkes dummy would be thrown on the flames with fireworks going off.
In Ottery St Mary, England, teams of men are known for carrying tar barrels that are set on fire on their shoulders through the ancient streets. When the 50-pound barrel gets too hot for the carrier, another man takes his place until the barrel is burnt to ashes.
For a little insight to Ottery St. Mary, listen to the podcast, Mark Steel’s in Town from the BBC – https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b01pc3by?partner=uk.co.bbc&origin=share-mobile
Bonfire Night Food
As well as the bonfires, Guy Fawkes Night brings with it lots of traditional food – many of which use the bonfires as their heat source. Baked potatoes are wrapped in foil and roasted on the fire, and this is combined with warm mugs of soup, or bangers (sausages) wrapped in bacon. In some English towns, the traditional sticky Parkin cake is made from ginger, oatmeal, and treacle/golden syrup.
For those with a sweet tooth, Toffee Apples are often popular because the event is close to Halloween, and marshmallows are toasted in the flames of the bonfire.
Who Else Celebrates Guy Fawkes Day?
While Guy Fawkes Day is mainly celebrated in the United Kingdom, as this is where the original incident occurred, it also spread to many commonwealth countries. Nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Saint Vincent, the Grenadines, and Saint Kitts and Nevis have all celebrated Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night in the past, however, the popularity is decreasing.
Guy Fawkes Mask
The Guy Fawkes mask is seen in the 2005 film “V for Vendetta”, or representing the hacktivist group known as Anonymous.
Watch Gunpowder, Treason & Plot a 2004 BBC miniseries about the turbulent and bloody reigns of Scottish monarchs Mary, Queen of Scots, and her son King James VI of Scotland who became King James I of England and foiled the Gunpowder Plot.
How do you celebrate Bonfire Night?
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