The Fifth of November

Bonfire or fireworks night, on the 5th November every year, was in remembrance of the failed gunpowder plot by #Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators to blow up the Houses of #Parliament on the 5th November 1605. This custom has long since disappeared in some towns, having been overshadowed by the more popular Halloween celebrations.

As a child growing up in the UK in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I remember how popular #Bonfire night used to be. On the days leading up to the 5th November you would see children on the street sat next to an effigy of Guy Fawkes; usually a pair of their dad’s old trousers and shirts stuffed with old clothes and a mask to resemble the figure of a man (somewhat like a scarecrow). As you walked past you would be met with a cry of “penny for the guy,” at which point you would give a penny to the child for their efforts. On the evening of the 5th November, there would be an organised fireworks display and large bonfire, usually in the local playing fields, where the ‘Guys’ would then be thrown onto the bonfire.

Guy Fawkes was part of an Anglo Catholic group that wanted to rid the throne of the Protestant Monarch King James I in order to replace him with a Catholic Monarch. He was found beneath the Houses of Parliament next to a stockpile of gunpowder and was subsequently tortured in order to reveal his co-conspirators and then when waiting to be hanged and quartered, he fell from the gallows and broke his neck, avoiding the practice of being drawn (having ones organs removed) while still alive.

My mother would never have allowed me to construct a ‘Guy,’ because she considered asking for pennies in the street to be begging, and being a child, I never really considered the #macabre significance of it all. But I do still become nostalgic when remembering those dark and cold November nights, being wrapped in a scarf and woolly hat, the glow and the smell from the bonfire, with a hamburger in my hand whilst watching the #fireworks display.


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