~by Anna Marikar
Bonfire Night (also known as Guy Fawkes Day / Night) is one of my favourite times of year, and definitely the highlight of Autumn. Here in the UK, although Bonfire Night is not as big an event as Christmas, it’s something that most families really enjoy, is always covered in schools, and is part of our national traditions.
The origin of Bonfire Night goes back to 5th November 1605, when King James 1st survived the “gunpowder plot” – an attempt to assassinate him and replace him with a Catholic head of state. The plot consisted of a plan to blow up the House of Lords with gunpowder, and was led by Robert Catesby, but the name most remembered is that of Guy Fawkes who was found guarding the stash of gunpowder when the plot was uncovered.
Guy Fawkes Day is most commonly celebrated the night of 5th November, but when this falls midweek you often find public fireworks displays taking place on the weekends before and afterwards for convenience. Although many households do light their own fireworks at home in their back gardens, public displays are always very popular and that is the option we always go for. With the public displays, we can see more impressive fireworks than if we bought our own and I feel like it’s safer for the children and makes a fun night out.
The public celebrations for Guy Fawkes Day (Bonfire Night) nearly always include a large bonfire as well as the firework display. It’s traditional to have a “guy” burning on top. This is a large human type figure often made of newspaper and cardboard and then dressed in old clothes. This symbolises an effigy of Guy Fawkes, a reminder of how he and his co-conspirators were sentenced to death after the plot was thwarted. Today the political aspects of the plot are not so significant and these symbols are just carried on as tradition. The focus is has shifted more to the fireworks and enjoying family time. There are often other attractions like fairground rides and face painting at the public displays too.
I have lots of childhood memories of Bonfire Night, which was always a family occasion. We would wrap up warm in scarves, gloves and woolly hats and watch our local fireworks show on the beach with our parents, siblings and grandparents and then normally get fish and chips. Since I grew up in a fishing town on the coast, our fish and chips are one of the best in England.
Other traditional treats for Bonfire Night are toffee apples, which are similar to caramel apples or candy apples from the US and sometimes hot donuts. Sparklers (hand held fireworks) are also really popular and given to children around Bonfire Night.
We’ve taken our boys out to Bonfire Night celebrations since they were babies and they really enjoyed seeing all the brightly coloured fireworks and enjoying the atmosphere. I love seeing them all wrapped up warm ready to celebrate (since its November and the celebrations are after dark, it is always pretty cold). We’ve continued the family feel of Bonfire Night by normally going out to watch fireworks together with some of the kids aunties and uncles, it’s much more fun that way!
The fireworks tend to go on for about a week or more, since people hold their displays on different nights around Guy Fawkes Day, so on the nights that we haven’t gone out to a display the children watch out of the windows for any local fireworks that they can spot. When I was a child, my sister and I did the same and we used to climb up to the top of our climbing frame in the garden to get a better view!
Anna is a London-based stay at home mum to three boys. Her fabulous blog In The Playroom is a parenting and lifestyle blog, about playing, learning, and life with young children, including special needs. She shares kids crafts and activities which are simple and easy for any parent to do with the supplies you probably already have in your home. You can follow her on facebook, twitter, and pinterest to see all the lovely crafts and activities she does!