UK Festivities: Bonfire Night

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Gun powder, treason & plot.

I see no reason why gunpowder, treason

Should ever be forgot

 

The History of Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Night, is an annual commemoration observed on the 5th November marking the anniversary of the 1605 failed Gunpowder Plot.

When the Protestant King James I took the throne, English Catholics had hoped that the persecution they had experienced for over 45 years under Queen Elizabeth would finally end. When this did not happen, a group of conspirators resolved to assassinate the King and his ministers by blowing up the House of Parliament during the state opening.

Guy Fawkes was one of the conspirators. They rented out a house close to the Houses of Parliament which enabled them to smuggle 36 barrels of gunpowder into the cellar of the House of Lords- enough to completely destroy the building.

The conspirators’ plan began to unravel when an anonymous letter was sent to William Parker warning him to avoid the Houses of Parliament. The letter became public and led to a search in the early hours of 5th November. Guy Fawkes had been left in the cellar as he was responsible for setting off the fuse. At the last moment he was discovered by the group of guards. Fawkes was arrested, sent to the Tower of London and tortured.

Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London and the tradition remains.

Traditions on Bonfire Night

Today the Houses of Parliament are still searched by the Yeomen of the Guard before the state opening. Nowadays it is much more ceremonial, using lanterns to light the way, than a serious threat.

Throughout the UK people still celebrate with fireworks, sparklers, bonfires, food and parades. Straw dummies representing Guy Fawkes are thrown onto the bonfire to remember his treason. The fireworks represent the explosives that were never used by the plotters.

Throughout the country, neighbourhoods will gather to remember this important historical moment, so keep an eye out for events near you. TimeOut London’s list of events can be found here. Or you can give Londonist’s suggestions a try.

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