Bonfire Night, Britain-wide

1 month to go until Bonfire Night!

Britain’s night skies light up with blazing bonfires and sparkling fireworks to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. This unique British tradition, also known as Guy Fawkes Day, Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night, celebrates the foiling of the infamous Gunpowder Plot – a plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5 November, 1605. It’s celebrated across Britain and most towns and cities host their own bonfire night celebrations.

The history of November 5: gunpowder, treason and plot

In the early 17th century, some English Catholics had hoped that their new monarch, James I, would relax the hardline Protestantism favoured by his predecessors. One band of Catholics was so frustrated when this situation failed to materialise that they devised a plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament, while the king, his eldest sons and most MPs (Members of Parliament) were inside.

The plot progressed seamlessly until an anonymous tip-off led to Guy Fawkes being rumbled on 5 November 1605, as he guarded 36 barrels of gunpowder in the vaults beneath the House of Lords. He was tortured for days before confessing and revealing the names of his co-conspirators, and they were later sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. Fawkes was not the instigator of the scheme – he was an explosives expert enlisted by ringleader Robert Catesby – but, as the one who was caught, he has become synonymous with the dastardly plot ever since.

The celebrations

Bonfires have been lit to celebrate the plot being foiled every year since the traitors’ grisly executions and, over time, effigies of treasonous schemer Fawkes began to be burnt on the pyres. Children would build scarecrow-like “Guys” out of old clothes stuffed with flammable materials, and display their efforts in the streets, asking for a “penny for the Guy”.

Guys still go up in flames at displays across the country while adults consume mulled wine, children wave sparklers, and everyone battles the cold as fireworks fill the sky.


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