Lifestyle, Seasonal

A Quick History of Bonfire Night

Most countries have the odd date in the year that they pin historical significance on and mark it with some sort of festival. Many countries celebrate their independence day, the United States, Australia, Pakistan all celebrate their birthdays with lots of yummy food and fireworks.

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Now over here in the UK, we don’t really have that sort of ‘birthday’ because back in the day we were the mother of all the colonies but we do not like the idea of missing out on an excuse for drinking outside and lighting explosives. In the UK, our celebrations often also involve lighting a big fire outside and standing in a field with everyone we know watching fireworks on a freezing night in early November. Yes, indeed I am talking about Bonfire Night.

This is a very popular celebration each year of the ‘Gunpowder Plot’, or rather the plots failure. Let me explain.

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Guido Fawkes, who we now commonly know as Guy, was part of this plot way back in 1605. He wanted to blow up the monarchy, King James I and his government and whilst some of us still may have these thoughts in various political climates, it being 1605, there was a very real risk that he might be able to pull off such a feat.

But why did he want to do this? So basically it was all down to religion. England was a staunchly Protestant country in the early 1600’s and Guy and his plotter friends were Catholic. They wanted the country to revert back to Catholicism, which they thought would be possible if they killed the king and his ministers.

Guy and Co planted 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars beneath the Houses of Parliament and prepared for a huge explosion. However, as is often the case with big schemes, someone snitched and a member of Guy’s team sent a letter to a friend who happened to work in parliament and warned him to basically call in sick on the 5th November.

This letter fell into the hands of the king’s supports and all was revealed. Guards of the king went to the cellars where the gunpowder lay. Accompanying the powder were the plotters themselves and they were arrested and executed. So with the plot foiled, everyone went home and ate hot dogs around the fire.

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Okay, so maybe that last part is not true, but that is why we celebrate the fifth of November by lighting gunpowder, watching colourful, organised explosions in the sky. Some bonfires also include straw effigies, which traditionally were to ward off evil spirits as far back as the 13 hundreds, but after the events of 1605, many made straw “Guy’s” to burn during the festivities.

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November, gunpowder treason and plot…”

It is a rhyme I’d imagine we are all familiar with, from school age up, here in the UK. In the typical fashion of English humour, it is often pondered by some, exactly what part we are celebrating; the execution of Guy Fawkes or his attempt to do away with the government.

Is Bonfire Night something you like to celebrate? Let me know in the comments below. 

37 thoughts on “A Quick History of Bonfire Night”

    1. That’s great! I noticed that a lot of people don’t know why we celebrate it here in the UK so I made a quick little post on it to explain the basics. I’m glad you found it useful! Happy Bonfire Night! x

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  1. 36 barrels under the houses of Parliament?! Can you imagine someone trying to do this today πŸ˜‚

    I love fireworks night and I love the way you told this. Its made me excited for fireworks 😊 though we have to wait until the 8th for our display here!

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    1. Haha, indeed! I am sure many people have thought about this, or similar over the years! πŸ˜‚ Thank you so much for your kind words – I am glad that you liked my post. I think the weather here seems a bit more promising next week, so if I don’t get to a display tonight, it’ll have to in the next week! *as the sky quickly blackens and it pours down* 😭

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    1. Thank you so much β™₯ I love Bonfire Night as well – I think it gets me in the mood for the rest of winter, wrapping up warm and going to a nice event with some hot food. Oh wow, I have never seen the Edinburgh fireworks, I would love to see! London has had some good display over the years too! x

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      1. I think London’s ones are fabulous but we have the castle so it just makes the whole scene special. You should definitely see them – New Year fireworks and, if you don’t mind the cold, street party in Edinburgh is something everyone should go to once!

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      2. I feel like the ones in London are always so over priced – the ones back home were always more affordable. I have heard about the parties in Edinburgh around New Year – they always look so much fun! I feel like NYE in London is so repetitive! x

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    1. Thank you for reading – I wanted to give people a little info on why we seem to randomly have fireworks for like a week and a half around Halloween, in much of the country! I’m glad you found it useful! x

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    1. πŸ˜‚ I love them too, so I completely understand! I hope I can get something planned this year as my Halloween was pretty uneventful! Thank you for reading my post – I am glad you found it interesting!

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    1. Oooh that sounds like the type of thing i would have watched, although I don’t precisely recall. I have been to one lot of fireworks so far, hopefully more to come! πŸ”₯

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  2. Thank you for writing this post – I love Bonfire Night, so it was lovely to revisit the history around it. I love that we celebrate this event (personally I think we’re celebrating the attempt to blow up Parliament – it seems a bit more fun than the other option). I’m feeling even more ready for Tuesday now. Very appropriately, lots of fireworks are going off outside as I type this.

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    1. Hehe, I think there would be a lot of people to agree with that! πŸ˜‚ I love Bonfire Night so much – it gets me in the spirit for Christmas! I got to a display yesterday which was awesome, then off to the pub for some drinks! x

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  3. Trying to explain Bonfire Night to people not from the UK can be so confusing. You’ve done a great job of explaining it here. I don’t really celebrate because my poor dog gets so scared x

    Sophie

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    1. Right!? This was exactly me last week, trying to explain to a person from Brazil why it was so noisy at this time of year. I love Bonfire Night so much but I always feel so bad for the pets inside 😦 and even like the horses and other animals that are outside – although this isn’t so much a problem in the middle of London!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading my post Shelly β™₯ and for your comment. I’m glad you found it of interest. I didn’t want to make it too much like a history lesson – I remember learning about it in school when I was really little and making pictures for it! x

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    1. That’s so great! I would like to go to a bonfire one year where there would be a ‘Guy’ on the fire – I haven’t seen one like this since moving to London! Thank you for reading my post and I hope you enjoy tomorrow! x

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  4. As a history graduate I’m loving that I’ve found a blog which incorporates history! I do find the Robert Catesby, Guy Fawkes and co story really fascinating. Great post x

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    1. Thank you so much – I am glad you liked my post on this. For Halloween and Bonfire Night this year I decided to make things a little different to the type of post I’d usually have up! Thank you for your comment β™₯ I hope you have a great Guy Fawkes night! x

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  5. Cold frosty nights, huge bonfires, roasting potatoes and hot soup, all wrapped up warm whilst dad set off the fireworks. Fabulous. But for me, now, i would rather watch fireworks over Sydney Opera house, sipping champagne on New Year’s Eve, in the height of their summer. Its an age thing!

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    1. I think it has something to do with the temperature outside! I always loved spending my Bonfire Night in a very similar way to how you described but without the blanket and in the presence of pumpkins!

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  6. When I was young (not as far back as guy fawkes) …but almost…We had bonfires all over…in people’s gardens or on any waste ground and it was our job to visit them all (no health and safety issues in those days) and pick which we liked best.
    Then home for broth and dumplings to warm up.
    Happy times 😍😍😍😍😍😍😍

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    1. That sounds amazing. I love bonfire displays and fireworks so much although fireworks should be kept to professional displays i think, and not sold to everyone to set off in the street! Broth and dumplings is one of my favourite things about winter! 😍🀭

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