05 November, 2012

Light The Bonfire Burn The Guy And Set Off The Fireworks


Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Today, the 5th of November, is the traditional Guy Fawkes Night in Great Britain, also known as Guy Fawkes Day, Bonfire Night and Firework Night.

This is a tradition going back to 1605 and I fear that it is being squeezed out by the sheer, rampant commercialisation of Halloween that has been introduced more and more over the past ten years, in what I call, the Americanisation of Britain.

Shops, stores and supermarkets see Halloween as a cash cow and it has subsequently become the second largest boost to their profits after Christmas. But I like the old traditions of each country. I don't want us all becoming identikits of each other.

As I said Guy Fawkes Night goes back to 1605 and the Gunpowder Plot. Guy Fawkes was part of this and was arrested for guarding explosives i.e. gunpowder which plotters had placed under the House of Lords. As the plot was foiled King James I was saved from an attempt on his life. To celebrate this bonfires were lit in London.

In later months an Act of Parliament was introduced to make the 5th of November a public day of thanksgiving for the plots failure.

There are deeper levels to all of this as religion had a play to part between Catholics (the plotters) and Protestants (The King's men) but, hopefully, that is long forgotten.

From my childhood I remember us kids building a huge bonfire - to be lit by our parents in the evening - and making a guy out of discarded clothes stuffed with paper and old rags. We would also take our guy out and about asking passers-by for 'a penny for the guy'. Any money collected would be used to buy fireworks.

In the evening the guy was placed on the bonfire and burnt while the fireworks were let off. It was an important, memorable occasion each year. Now, what with Halloween and Health and Safety Regulations gone mad, the tradition of  over 400 years is gradually becoming less and less significant. History seems no longer to play a part in modern life but I shall light a few fireworks regardless.

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5 comments:

  1. Halloween certainly has lost its meaning and tradition. I'm pleased to learn about Guy Fawkes Night and hope that religion played a part is also remembered.
    It wasn't religion that was the issue, it was the politics and power of the "control" against the "rebels" and "God" was chosen to blame.

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    1. But it was the 'politics and power' of differing religions that was surely at the forefront.

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  2. Make hay while the sun shines.
    Personal fireworks have been banned for decades in Australia and Guy Fawkes night is now a distant memory.
    Ask an Australian kid what Guy Fawkes night is and most wouldn't know.
    Ask an Australian kid what Halloween is and they will pretty much all know what that is.
    The only fireworks you will see in Oz are the big licensed shows like the New Years Eve fireworks you see going off on TV...and of course the few illegal ones that people still dare to fire at the risk of a policeman knocking on their door.

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    1. I'm actually surprised that we can still buy fireworks in the UK as we have an obsession here with 'health and safety' and this is ruining many traditions and lots of aspects of life. The fireworks nowadays though aren't as powerful or as noisy as in the past.

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  3. It's a shame when a country's traditions are shoved aside. When we were in maybe ten years ago, I was shocked to see the official currency was dollars.

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