Tuesday, 2 November 2010

What is Guy Fawkes' Night?

With our "Scottish family connections" I have been aware of Guy Fawkes' Night before, but we have never personally celebrated this holiday which is observed in the United Kingdom.  While living in Scotland, in the Nineties, I encountered youngsters who had made "a Guy" out of old clothes (or sometimes a stuffed toy) and they would ask people on the street for "A penny for the Guy."  This money was then used to buy candy.

A few quick facts (from http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/uk/guy-fawkes-day) have helped Alisdair and I to plan a small, low key, celebration that we will hold in the back yard.  (Possibly we will do the fireworks at a nearby lake so as not to disturb the other villagers.)  Normally, November 5th is "Bonfire Night" but since John is working during the latter part of the week (and I don't want to be solely responsible for two children around a fire and trying to set off fireworks) we will observe it a wee bit early.

"Guy Fawkes' Night" celebrates the foiling of an attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London on November 5, 1605. "The attack was planned by a group of Catholic conspirators, which included Guy Fawkes. The explosives would have been set off when King James I of England (King James VI of Scotland) and many parliamentary members were in the building. The conspirators were later arrested, tortured and executed.  The event marks the anniversary of the discovery of the plot."

Fireworks are used to celebrate Guy Fawkes' Night, also known as Bonfire Night. ©iStockphoto.com/Lyle Gregg

"Many people light bonfires and set off fireworks. As it is the end of autumn, it is the ideal opportunity to burn garden rubbish. Some light small bonfires in their own gardens, while others light larger ones in a communal space. In some towns and cities, the municipality organizes a bonfire and professional firework display in a park. These tend to be very popular.

Due to its proximity to Halloween, many people organize a combined party for Guy Fawkes' Night and Halloween. These parties often include elements from both festivals, such as a bonfire and dressing up in spooky outfits. Popular foods include toffee apples, bonfire toffee and potatoes baked in the ashes of the fire.

Guy Fawkes, a Catholic, was arrested, tortured and executed for his part in the plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Hence many Catholics are more restrained in their celebration of this day. In addition, many injuries and even deaths occur as a result of fireworks being used incorrectly. For this reason, many safety campaigners call for the sale of fireworks to the public to be restricted even more than at present and for more professional displays to be organized.

Guy Fawkes' Day is not a public holiday. Businesses, organizations and schools are open as usual. Public transport services run to their normal timetables."

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