The song reeling through my head at the moment is…Disco Inferno by the Trammps.
Burn Baby Burn.
Burn Baby Burn.
Burn that mother down.
Well this weekend I didn’t go to a disco. But I did attend my first Bonfire Night, or otherwise known as Guy Fawkes Night. Piet and I flew into Bristol for a long one night stay with lovely friends. We mostly took it easy, but we did take advantage of the gorgeous fall weather and went on a stroll through a nearby cemetery. I mean really, check out these lush fall colors!
Once the sun went down, we headed out to Victoria Park for some bonfire action. So whats the deal with this November 5th British holiday? From what I can tell here is the scoop. The original holiday was basically meant to be a day of thankfulness to remember a thwarted gun powder plot to kill the king. In 1605 King James I took over the throne. The English Catholics at that time were hopeful that with the new King would also come freedom of religion, which had not happened over the previous 45 years under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I.
Well, these new freedoms never came and thus a group of conspirators came up with a plan to blow King James I into oblivion taking the Palace of Westminster with him during the state opening of Parliament. Guy Fawkes was one of the conspirators and somewhat of an explosives expert. They were renting a house near the House of Parliament, and filled the cellar with 36 barrels of gunpowder.
Needless to say the plan did not come to fruition. An anonymous letter was sent to a William Parker warning him to avoid the building. This letter was made public and Westminster Palace was searched in the early morning of November 5th. Fawkes was discovered in the cellar just in time as he was waiting to detonate the explosives. As news of this spread, bonfires began being lit all around London to celebrate the fact that King James I has survived the attempted murder, and eventually the Observance of November 5th became a national public holiday.
Currently, enormous bonfires are lit all around the country and homemade effigies of hated public figures are often burned in these fires. I am not really sure how that part of the tradition started and I didn’t get any photos of this as we showed up a little too late, but here are two I found online from this weekends festivities. This year seemed to be primarily Trump and the classic Guy Fawkes effigies.
The rhyme makes more sense to me now that I know a little of the historical context.
The fifth of November.
Gunpowder, treason, and plot!
I see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
There are also some nice firework displays and loads of people of all ages out enjoying the heat off the massive fire. I love a huge fire and a crowd of people as much as the next person. But it is a little strange to see hundreds of us all transfixed and staring into the most glorious fire we’ve ever seen. Something very primeval about it….but I do love me some sparklers!
These days the tradition lies less in the historical factors and more in the joy of bundling up on a crisp autumn night and drinking mulled wine with your friends around a giant fire. Sounds gezellig to me!