What is Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night)? Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night) is almost upon us. But many of us around the world don’t actually know what Bonfire Night is, or what it celebrates. Read ahead to learn a lot more about this annual festivity observed across the UK and some parts of Canada and New Zealand.
In the UK, as the days get shorter and the weather gets crisp, online surveys reveal that children and adults alike attend Bonfire Night festivities up and down the country! In fact, it has been reported that over £300 million will be spent this year on fireworks and other supplies to commemorate Guy Fawkes Night.
Guy Fawkes Night 101 – The Basics
• Celebrated on 5th November each year
• Observed in the UK and some former commonwealth countries, such as Canada and New Zealand
• Often known as Bonfire Night
• Commemorates a failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605
• Celebrated with bonfires and fireworks, as well as by ‘burning a guy’ – an effigy of Guy Fawkes (or another public figure)
• Children will often parade the effigy through town, chanting ‘penny for the guy!’
• People chant: “Remember, remember, the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot, I see no reason, the gunpowder treason, shall ever be forgot.”
Who was Guy Fawkes?
Guy Fawkes was a Yorkshire man, converted to Catholicism at a young age, who believed that members of his religion were being persecuted. He was a member of a group of Catholic conspirators who attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. They wanted to do this on November 5th 1605 because it was the opening day of Parliament that year, and King James I of England (King James VI of Scotland) as well as many parliamentary members would be present.
After smuggling 36 barrels of gunpowder into the cellars of Parliament, Guy Fawkes was arrested the day before the event was supposed to take place. He and the other conspirators were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered – but Fawkes jumped off the scaffold and broke his own neck before he could be tortured.
What do people do on Bonfire Night?
All across the country, people light big bonfires and set off fireworks displays. Because this happens at the end of autumn in the UK, this is an ideal time to burn leaves and other garden rubbish. Some people do this on their own, but it usually happens in a communal village space.
People often burn an effigy on these bonfires, usually of Guy Fawkes himself, but also symbolising other lampooned public figures (most famously in the village of Lewes). This tradition started back when people across the country burned celebratory bonfires when they heard news that the Gunpowder Plot had been foiled.
People often eat toffee apples, bonfire toffee and potatoes that have been baked in the fires’ ashes. In more modern times, people set off heaps of fireworks and revel in a massive outdoor celebration.
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