Bonfire Night is also known as Fireworks’ Night or Guy Fawkes Night. It’s a British tradition dating back to
the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when Catholic conspirator Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I.
To this day, it is customary for the cellars in the Houses of Parliament to be searched by the Yeoman of the Guard before each State Opening of Parliament.
“Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot…”
When I was young, we never celebrated Halloween at all in the UK. Bonfire Night was a much bigger celebration, and we used to watch the bonfires being built in the weeks leading up to it, being piled high with wood. We used to make a ‘guy’ out of old clothes and filled with paper or straw. Some children would push their guy around the streets in an old pram, shouting ‘penny for the guy’ hoping to collect money to buy fireworks. My parents would buy a box of fireworks and we would let them off in the back garden.
The anniversary of Fawkes’ arrest on 5 November (sometimes known as Guy Fawkes Day) is celebrated with effigies of Guy Fawkes (“the guy”) are often burned on top of the bonfires. All over the country there are hundreds of organised bonfires and firework displays, with many held in the London area.
One of the most famous celebrations is held in the small, picturesque town of Lewes in Sussex. The town lights up for one night of the year in celebration of the famous treason of Guy Fawkes and his band of men. On the evening there is a Grand Procession that runs through the town with costumed paraders brandishing fire and sticks. The event then divides into six with each of the six Lewes bonfire societies hosting a bonfire and their own fireworks show.
“The Lewes bonfire isn’t for the faint-hearted. Standing at the front as the men, women and children of the various societies march by, banging drums and carrying flaming torches, you are inches away from fire, showered with burning cinders, while ear-splitting bangers are let off randomly, just feet away from where you are standing.
To a newcomer, this sensory feast feels like a once-in-a-lifetime bucket-list experience, yet for the people of Lewes the loud and colourful celebration is an annual experience and has been for more than 100 years”. (BBC news)
Lewes in East Sussex has a tradition for close to the knuckle Bonfire Night celebrations, featuring effigies of well known figures who are marched through the town before being burnt. Famous effigies often include topical political figures, and previous ones have included David Cameron, Vladimir Putin, and Angela Merkel.