Guy Fawkes Bonfire Night

By | November 5, 2014

Vendetta Halloween MaskBritain’s Halloween Alternative

In the UK Halloween has never really been much of a big deal. It’s sandwiched in between Harvest Festivals, which are big in rural areas,complete with scarecrow contests, and the big autumnal celebration, Bonfire Night.Visit England, Wales or Scotland on November 5, or the nearest Saturday night and you’ll see the sky lit up with fireworks to a 4 July level. There are huge bonfires up and down the country, and on many of them you’ll see the bizarre and gruesome spectacle of people throwing on an effigy of Guy Fawkes to burn as fireworks are set off.

As a nation Britain has been resisting the creeping arrival of the American style Halloween holiday. Bobbing for apples and telling ghost stories is acceptable, as is carving a pumpkin, swede or marrow. Yet there’s a reluctance to send children out to trick or treat, which looks a lot like begging or demanding money with menaces to British eyes, and the idea of adults dressing up for something other than a themed costume party is rather alien.

People used to make effigies of Guy Fawkes and throw them on the fire, often with an effigy of the Pope thrown in for good measure. The Pope burning has largely stopped in Great Britain, but for some Protestants in Northern Ireland, it’s still practiced, which is rather sad. Some towns still burn effigies of modern day hate figures, but that tradition is dying out as people feel it’s tasteless and incites more hatred.

Supermarket chains and manufacturers of plastic goods, candies and disposable fancy-dress outfits keep pushing Halloween, but the British keep lighting bonfires instead. Why do the British ‘celebrate’ Guy Fawkes Night?

What Is Guy Fawkes Night?

On 5 November 1605, Guy Fawkes was discovered with a large quantity of explosives he was guarding as part of a plot to blow up the English Parliament, along with King James I, with a view to restoring England to Catholicism. He was tortured and confessed to the plan, then sentenced to a particularly gruesome death. He managed to avoid a truly grim end by jumping to his death, having seen two of his co-conspirators die horribly.He didn’t die on 5 November, nor was their any fire or explosions, but there was a law passed to make 5 November a day of national celebration – the King had been saved from an assassination attempt and the nation saved from pesky Catholicism. The people were to light fires to celebrate.The law changed in 1859, so people weren’t required to celebrate with bonfires and fireworks, but let’s face it, fireworks are cool. As a Catholic kid growing up in England this was one holiday that our Church and school didn’t have a social for! Our parents didn’t want us to miss out on the fun though, so we still went to family bonfire parties. Not the ones where there was any kind of effigy burning, but they are few and far between. We just enjoyed the fireworks and the sausages.There is some evidence to point to Bonfire night being a way of carrying on older traditions of Samhain, the pagan post-harvest celebration, which became Halloween elsewhere.

Guy Fawkes CostumeGuy Fawkes Halloween Costume

Most people would be a little wary of wearing a Guy Fawkes outfit to a bonfire party, after all, the night is celebrating his death, but it happens.Following the success of V for Vendetta the Guy Fawkes mask has become a cultural icon, but you can make a much better Guy Fawkes Halloween Costume by adding a few bits and bobs. Why not wear a Guy Fawkes Halloween Outfit? After all if you were Guy Fawkes, you’d still have five days before your plot was foiled. I suspect that in 1605 Guy Fawkes’ Halloween was pretty good.

Go with the all in one, top to toe Guy Fawkes Halloween Costume for the minimum of effort. You’ll be immediately recognizable as Guy Fawkes, even to people who don’t know your back story.

Build Your Own Guy Fawkes Halloween Costume

Pulling your own Guy Fawkes Halloween costume together can halve the cost. It might not be exactly film-specific, but you’re sure to know someone with some black gloves you can borrow. You’ll need black shoes and pants, and a black T-shirt can work under a cloak to set off the look.  Add the mask and you’ve got a bargain.

What Happens On Bonfire Night Now?

Bonfire night in the 21st century is a largely good humored night where people go out to organized firework displays and bonfires. These can be grand spectacles, or fun village green celebrations. The Fire Brigade will often put on their own bonfire and firework display to discourage people from having their own bonfire and fireworks at home. Injuries from fireworks are reducing as people move to organized displays rather than home bonfires.

People will often eat sausages – “bangers” – and baked potatoes on the night. That’s mostly because they’re easy to cook for a crowd and could be cooked in the bonfire when people had fires at home.

Diwali, Britain’s Other Firework Holiday

Diwali isn’t an official national holiday in the UK, but there’s plenty of people who celebrate it. It falls around the time of Bonfire Night, so there’s yet another excuse to set off fireworks. The story of Diwali isn’t as gruesome as that of Guy Fawkes. Diwali is a Hindu and Jain festival of lights, and people celebrating get new clothes, give gifts and share sweets. The fireworks serve the dual purpose of scaring away evil spirits whilst lighting up the sky.The English town of Leicester (where the body of Richard III was discovered) has the largest Diwali celebrations outside India and people travel to the city to join in.

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