Bonfire Night traditions in Britain

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 13:20:45

(VOVworld) – November 5th is the day when Britons everywhere celebrate Bonfire Night or The Guy Fawkes Night. The event is accompanied by firework displays, the lighting of bonfires and the ceremonial burning of Guy Fawkes. What is the meaning of the event and why is it so widely celebrated across Britian? Today we will talk with Stella Ciorra from Britain to learn more about this tradition in her country.

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People in Hastings, a town near Lewes in Sussex, fired a large bonfire during the Bornfire night. (Photo: VisitEngland Images)

Q: Hello Stella. Glad to have you on the show! I know that people in your country celebrate Bonfire Night or the Guy Fawkes Night every year on November the 5th but I don’t really know why. Can you explain it to me?

A: The history of Bonfire night dates back to the 5th of November in 1605. That was more than 400 years ago. On the throne was King James the First who was a Protestant and the Catholics were quite upset. I don’t think he treated the Catholics very well. Then there was a group of men who were Catholic who wanted to overthrow and kill the King. They hid 36 barrels of gun powder in the basement of the House of Lords and the idea was to light them to explode, killing the King and the members of Parliament. But certain people within this group started to get worried and realized some of their friends would be killed in the explosion. They sent messages to warn people in the House of Lords to be careful. The authorities then caught Guy Fawkes, the leader of the group, and other members. They were tortured and killed. In the end, there was no explosion and the people of Britain celebrated the survival of the King. They started to launch bonfires across the country. And after that, it became an annual celebration to have Bonfire night on the 5th of November.

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"The arrest of Guy Fawkes which foiled the Gunpowder Plot" painting by Ron Embleton. (Photo: Look and Learn)

Q: As you say Bonfire Night is a celebration of a failed coup by the Catholics. Does it upset the Catholic community in Britain?

A: Oh now, no, perhaps in the past. I think now if you ask most people, they would have to check the Internet to learn about what it really means. So it’s just a big celebration, not only across England but in the whole of Britain.

Q: How long do the celebrations usually last?

A: The night starts at around 5 or 7 because you need the sky to be dark to see the fireworks. The celebration might end at around 9 but it depends.

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Participants in costume process with an effigy of Guy Fawkes, to be burned, as they take part in one of a series of processions during Bonfire night celebrations in Lewes, southern England in 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Luke Macregor)

Q: Besides lighting up bonfires, what will you do during the event?

A: People will make a replica of Guy Fawkes out of anything, such as clothes and paper. When I was a child, we made the model of the Guy and went out to the street. I would ask a penny for the Guy and raised money for myself. But in modern timse, people organize a bonfire with fireworks and big bonfire parties in villages, towns and parks. They still make the replica of the Guy and put it on the top of the fire. People will light it and fireworks will go off with music. You can also enjoy nice warm food like baked potatoes or some nice warm drinks.

We also sing a famous poem for the Guy Fawkes Night. It sounds like this:

“Remember, remember! The fifth of November, Gunpowder treason and plot;

I know of no reason why the Gunpowder treason should ever be forgot!”

And there was also a longer version but most people only know those lines.

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In Lewes, participants in the parade hold flaming torches to light up the chilly night air. (Photo: Daily Mail)
Q: So every city and town in Britain will have its own Bonfire night celebration?

A: There is a town in Britain where bonfire night is very, very important called Lewes. The whole town comes out and celebrates. It’s great; it’s really good. They also have a lot of drumming. I remember going to the night in Lewes and saw their parade. People walked in the streets with the Guy and they banged drums. They also played pipes.

Q: Have you ever seen any similar celebration in other countries?

A: I don’t believe so. I think it’s very British. It might go to other countries where there are British communities, for example in America. But I assume that only in Britain that the Night is dominant because it’s 100% British thing.

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In 2016, London has 26 major firework displays to celebrate Bonfire Night. (Photo: Rex)

Thank you Stella for sharing with us those facts about the traditional celebrations for Bonfire or Guy Fawkes Night in Britain!