Saturday, 8 November 2008

Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night

On Wednesday November 5th we went to the beach to celebrate bonfire night. It is more celebrated than Halloween. Below is a brief history of bonfire night, but basically it is a celebration of Guy Fawkes and his foiled attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605. Depending on who you talk to, it can be a celebration that he was foiled or that he had even had the guts to have attempted it. It's funny, the first bonfire night we celebrated here in the UK, I asked a neighbor what exactly it was we were celebrating and he said and I quote, "Well about 400 years ago a guy named Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament, unfortunately he was unsuccessful." Name withheld to protect his identity.

Here are some pictures...

Our tiny little bonfire, more like a campfire. We didn't have a Guy to put on it though, but we did have fireworks. Unfortunately, my camera doesn't do fireworks all that well.
Robbie, enjoying the fireworks for the first time. Each attempt previously has resulted in cries of terror.
Natalie and her friend Jack
Natalie and Robbie

The following is from the website

For 400 years, bonfires have burned on November 5th to mark the failed Gunpowder Plot.

The tradition of Guy Fawkes-related bonfires actually began the very same year as the failed coup. The Plot was foiled in the night between the 4th and 5th of November 1605. Already on the 5th, agitated Londoners who knew little more than that their King had been saved, joyfully lit bonfires in thanksgiving. As years progressed, however, the ritual became more elaborate.

Soon, people began placing effigies onto bonfires, and fireworks were added to the celebrations. Effigies of Guy Fawkes, and sometimes those of the Pope, graced the pyres. Still today, some communities throw dummies of both Guy Fawkes and the Pope on the bonfire (and even those of a contemporary politician or two), although the gesture is seen by most as a quirky tradition, rather than an expression of hostility towards the Pope.

Preparations for Bonfire Night celebrations include making a dummy of Guy Fawkes, which is called "the Guy". Some children even keep up an old tradition of walking in the streets, carrying "the Guy" they have just made, and beg passersby for "a penny for the Guy." The kids use the money to buy fireworks for the evening festivities.

On the night itself, Guy is placed on top of the bonfire, which is then set alight; and fireworks displays fill the sky.

The extent of the celebrations and the size of the bonfire varies from one community to the next. Lewes, in the South East of England, is famous for its Bonfire Night festivities and consistently attracts thousands of people each year to participate.

Bonfire Night is not only celebrated in Britain. The tradition crossed the oceans and established itself in the British colonies during the centuries. It was actively celebrated in New England as "Pope Day" as late as the 18th century. Today, November 5th bonfires still light up in far out places like New Zealand and Newfoundland in Canada.

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