Halloween season isn’t done yet: November 5th brings Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire or Fireworks Night, to recall a colorful bit of England’s history. Guy Fawkes was the rascal who, with his compadres, hatched the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The conspirators, English Catholics all, planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament, assassinate King James I, and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. Their gunpowder stores were hidden in the cellar below the House of Lords. An anonymous traitor sent a letter to the authorities, who raided the premises early the morning of November 5th and found Fawkes hiding with the goods. Protestants lit bonfires around London to celebrate King James’ escape from death, and fires have been lit ever after on Bonfire Night in commemoration.
Fawkes was later executed for treason and his failed plot is memorialized with the rhyme:
“Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot;
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.”
It became part of the tradition in England to burn an effigy of Fawkes on a bonfire and have a massive display of fireworks. Children joined in the festivities by running about and begging for “a penny for the Guy” then using the cadged funds to buy firecrackers.
Guy Fawkes, Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night has lost its political ire to become just a fun and festive occasion. Celebrate its lighter side.
Invite friends to a Guy Fawkes Night and make your own small effigies for the bonfire. Furnish your guests with scissors, scotch tape, brown paper, newspapers, felt pens, yarn, fabric scraps, and bits of candle wax to put inside. Invite them to get creative with anything that is problematic in present life. Then toss your troubles on the fire and watch them go up in smoke.
Appropriate refreshments to better the occasion might be mugs of hearty soup; jacket potatoes baked crispy and filled with cheese, beans or bacon; hot dogs and sausage to roast over the flames and douse with mustard; gingerbread, toffee apples and nuts; pint mugs of chilled or hot mulled apple cider.
Party on! The colder season is coming and we need to keep our souls warm and lift those spirits high.