Guy Fawkes Night
is an annual celebration on the
evening of 5 November
. It marks the downfall
of the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November
1605, in which a number of Catholic
conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to destroy the Houses of
Parliament, in London, capital of
primarily marked in the United Kingdom where, by an Act of
Parliament called the Thanksgiving
Act, it was compulsory until 1859, to celebrate the deliverance
of the King of England, Scotland, and Ireland; but it is also
celebrated in former British colonies including New Zealand, Newfoundland, South Africa, and
parts of the Caribbean.
Bonfire Night was celebrated in Australia
until the mid- to late 1970s, when sale and public use of fireworks
was made illegal and the celebration was effectively abolished.
It is also
celebrated in the British
Overseas Territory of Bermuda.
Festivities are centred on the use of fireworks
and the lighting of bonfires
United Kingdom customs
Children display their guy on the
street to raise funds for fireworks
In the United Kingdom, celebrations take place in towns and
villages across the country in the form of both private and civic
events. They involve fireworks
and the building of bonfires
traditionally "guys" are burnt, although this practice is not
always observed in modern times. These "guys" are traditionally
, the most famous of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators.
the night is celebrated in York (Fawkes'
hometown) some there do not burn his effigy, most notably those
from his old
In the past, before the fifth, children
traditionally used the "guys" to request a "penny for the guy" in
order to raise funds with which to buy fireworks. However, this
practice has diminished greatly, perhaps because it has been seen
as begging, and also because children are not allowed to buy
fireworks. In addition there are concerns that children might
misuse the money.
In the United Kingdom, there are several foods that are
traditionally consumed on Guy Fawkes Night:
Country, it is a traditional day for eating groaty pudding.
In West Yorkshire the practice of chumping is carried out by
children in the days and weeks before bonfire night. This is the
collection of wood and other combustible materials to make
Sussex, it is a major festival that centres
necessitating the closure of the town centre.
A Guy Fawkes Night firework
The night also
commemorates the Glorious
and 17 local Protestant martyrs that were burnt at
the stake during Marian
by the Catholic Queen
. The night begins with torchlight processions in costume
by a number of local bonfire
and culminates in six separate bonfires where
effigies of Guy Fawkes, Pope Paul V
topical personalities are destroyed by firework and flame. The
burning of an effigy of Pope Paul V is carried out by the Cliffe
Bonfire Society alone and they are barred from marching with the
Mary, in Devon, burning barrels of tar are carried
through the streets:
Night is less commonly celebrated in Northern Ireland, where autumn fireworks and bonfires are more
commonly associated with Halloween.
- "Ottery St. Mary is internationally renowned for its tar
barrels, an old custom said to have originated in the 17th century,
and which is held on November 5th each year. Each of Ottery's
central public houses sponsors a single barrel. In the weeks prior
to the day of the event, November 5th, the barrels are soaked with
tar. The barrels are lit outside each of the pubs in turn and once
the flames begin to pour out, they are hoisted up onto local
people's backs and shoulders. The streets and alleys around the
pubs are packed with people, all eager to feel the lick of the
barrels flame. Seventeen Barrels all in all are lit over the course
of the evening. In the afternoon and early evening there are
women's and boy's barrels, but as the evening progresses the
barrels get larger and by midnight they weigh at least 30 kilos. A
great sense of camaraderie exists between the 'Barrel Rollers',
despite the fact that they tussle constantly for supremacy of the
barrel. In most cases, generations of the same family carry the
barrels and take great pride in doing so. ... Opinion differs as to
the origin of this festival of fire, but the most widely accepted
version is that it began as a pagan ritual that cleanses the
streets of evil spirits."
In the aftermath of the Boer War
Maria Outerbridge — a leader of a "Boer Relief Committee" well
known for trying to assist Boer POWs in escaping — was so
unpopular with the British that on Guy Fawkes Night an effigy of
her was burned, rather than of Guy Fawkes.
Canada, Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes Night is largely unheard
of in most provinces, although it is still celebrated in a few
The tradition was planted along with other cultural
practices of British colonists in the 19th century. However
practices have been modified over two centuries since arriving from
the United Kingdom as the following reveals:
"The night is also still celebrated in
British Columbia. The custom was brought over by British coal
miners that came to Nanaimo in the mid 1800s. They built very tall
bonfires – often 40 feet (12 metres) or taller, sometimes from
"spare" railroad ties that they'd come across. Over the years in
Nanaimo, by the 1960s the effigy of Guy Fawkes had disappeared, and
so had the name – it's just called "Bonfire Night" by the local
children. Now (2006), the tradition has largely been lost
altogether, and the few remaining celebrations that are held are
mostly in private backyards."
Fawkes bonfires are still burnt in many parts of the province of
The celebrations are widespread enough to
merit recent mention by the provincial Minister of Environment and
Tom Osborne, Minister of Environment and Conservation,
today asked the general public to keep safety and the environment
in mind when holding bonfires this weekend to celebrate Guy Fawkes
“Holding bonfires on Guy Fawkes night is still a tradition in many
areas of our province and we are asking those participating in a
bonfire this year to ensure they clean up their area, especially
our beaches, when the festivities are over,” said Minister Osborne.
“We should always be mindful of the importance of our environment
and do our part to keep it clean at all times, including events
like Guy Fawkes night.”"
Caribbean nation of Saint Vincent and the
Grenadines, the night is celebrated in the town of Barrouallie, on the leeward side of the main island of Saint
The town's field comes ablaze as people
come to see all of the traditional pyrotechnics.
Barbuda, Guy Fawkes Night was popular until the 1990s, when
a ban on fireworks made it almost non-existent.
Bahamas, Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated in the Fox Hill area
Providence, the main
Other islands have smaller celebrations for their
This day was celebrated in the Colonies
and was called "Pope's Day".
the high point of "anti-popery" (in the
term of the times) in New
England. In the 1730s or earlier Boston's artisans
commemorated the day with a parade and performances which mocked
Catholicism and the Catholic Stuart pretender.
also the day when the youth and the lower class ruled. They went
door to door collecting money from the affluent to finance feasting
and drinking. George Washington
forbade the celebration of the day among his troops due to its
anti-Catholic and pro-British purpose.
Night/Guy Fawkes Night (and the weekend closest to it) is the main
night for both amateur and official fireworks displays in the UK and New Zealand.
, Guy Fawkes Night has not
been celebrated since the late 1970s, when sale and public use of
fireworks was banned in most states and territories to prevent
their misuse and personal injuries, and especially because of the
danger of bushfires during hot Novembers. Prior to this ban, Guy
Fawkes Night in Australia was widely celebrated with many private,
backyard fireworks lightings and larger communal bonfires and
fireworks displays in public spaces. Some recent immigrants to
Australia from Britain preserve the British tradition and arrange
private parties with bonfires and sparklers.
A pyrotechnic fountain.
In New Zealand, the sale of fireworks has been increasingly
reduced.This is predominantly due to misuse by young
people.Firecrackers have been banned since 1991, and rockets (or
any firework where the firework itself flies) have been banned
since 1994. In 2007, the sale period for fireworks was reduced to
the four days leading to Guy Fawkes Night, and the legal age to buy
fireworks was raised from 14 to 18. Despite those sales
restrictions, there is actually no restriction on when one may
light fireworks, only a restriction on when they may be sold. There
are some local bans on setting off fireworks, usually covering only
the days around Guy Fawkes Night. Ex Prime Minister Helen Clark
considered banning the sale of
personal fireworks in New Zealand, although 2007 was one of the
"quietest on record" according to the NZ fire service. However the
major New Zealand cities now hold their own popular public firework
displays on Guy Fawkes night.
Guy Fawkes is widely celebrated in South Africa. However, the day
has largely lost its meaning, and is seen more often as a reason to
light fireworks. Bonfires with Fawkes effigies are not uncommon,
although they are certainly not essential to Guy Fawkes
celebrations in South Africa. Many schools and community centres
stage fireworks displays that are used to raise money. Until
government restrictions on the purchase of fireworks were
introduced in the 1990s (primarily motivated by animal rights
concerns), it was common for middle-class neighbourhoods to host
quite elaborate informal fireworks displays. These have diminished
of late, due to the necessity of obtaining a permit hold such
events. Small, quiet fireworks (such as a "fountains" and
"sparklers") are often lit at private home parties.
The government has allocated sections of public beaches to be used
as sites for the firing of fireworks. These sites are usually
plagued by pollution due to Guy Fawkes celebrations.
Guy Fawkes day was celebrated to some extent by South Africans of
English descent, but the practice began dwindling by the 1960s.
Personal fireworks were banned by the Apartheid-era government,
which feared that fireworks could be converted into improvised
explosive devices during periods of civil unrest. This development
may have contributed to the decline of celebrations. However, South
Africa's expulsion from the Commonwealth and distancing from
Britain in the 1960s is another likely factor.
Several traditional rhymes have accompanied the festivities.
Sometimes 'God Save the king' can be replaced by 'God save the
Queen' depending on who is on the throne.
- :Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
- :The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
- :I see no reason
- :Why the Gunpowder Treason
- :Should ever be forgot.
- :Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
- :To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
- :Three-score barrels of powder below
- :To prove old England's overthrow;
- :By God's providence he was catch'd (or by God's
- :With a dark lantern and burning match.
- :Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
- :Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
- :And what should we do with him? Burn
these words are used in by Battle Bonfire Boyes who carry on the
tradition of bonfire at their annual event in Sussex. They have the
honour of the longest continuous Guy Fawkes bonfire celebrations in
the world.The above traditional 'bonfire cry' is used at the
society meeting immediately preceding the annual event, and prior
to the lighting of the bonfire, and on other significant
In more common use the above 'bonfire cry' is occasionally altered
with the last three lines (after "burning match") being supplanted
by the following;
- :A traitor to the Crown by his action,
- :No Parli'ment mercy from any faction,
- :His just end should'st be grim,
- :What should we do? Burn him!
- :Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring,
- :Holler boys, holler boys, God save the King!
Since the town of Lewes doesn't just focus on Guy Fawkes they add
an extra verse to do with the Pope
the struggle between Protestants and
. This practice is unique to the Lewes Bonfire
- :A penny loaf to feed the
- :A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
- :A pint of beer to rinse it down.
- :A fagot of sticks to burn him.
- :Burn him in a tub of tar.
- :Burn him like a blazing star.
- :Burn his body from his head.
- :Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
- :Hip hip hoorah!
- :Hip hip hoorah hoorah!
A variant on the foregoing:
- :Remember, remember the fifth of November
- :Gunpowder, treason and plot.
- :I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
- :Should ever be forgot.
- :Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
- :Gunpowder, treason and plot!
- :A stick or a stake for King James' sake
- :Will you please to give us a fagot
- :If you can't give us one, we'll take two;
- :The better for us and the worse for you!
Another piece of popular doggerel:
- :Guy, guy, guy
- :Poke him in the eye,
- :Put him on the bonfire,
- :And there let him die.
Or, today used frequently,instead of "Put him on the bonfire","Hang
him on a lamppost".
...and another variant, sung by children in Lancashire whilst
begging "A Penny For The Guy":
- Remember, remember the fifth of November
- It's Gunpowder Plot, we never forgot
- Put your hand in your pocket and pull out your
- A ha'penny or a penny will do you no harm
- Who's that knocking at the window?
- Who's that knocking at the door?
- It's little Mary Ann with a candle in her hand
- And she's going down the cellar for some coal
This is a South Lancashire song sung when knocking at doors asking
for money to buy fireworks, or combustibles for a bonfire (known as
"Cob-coaling"), there are many variations, this is a shorter one:
- We come a Cob-coaling for Bonfire time,
- Your coal and your money we hope to enjoy.
- Fal-a-dee, fal-a-die, fal-a-diddly-i-do-day.
- If you don't have a penny a ha'penny will do.
- If you don't have a ha'penny, then God bless you.
The custom seems to have died out in the 1980s–1990s with the rise
of the American import of "Trick-or-treating."
- Kerre Woodham Guy Fawkes Night: Gone with a bang, The New
Zealand Herald, 11 November 2007
- Bolton Revisited : Remember Remember the Fifth of
November Retrieved 5 November 2009
- Ottery St
Mary Tar Barrels
- Nash, pg. 165
- George Washington, November 5, 1775, General
Orders The Writings of George Washington from the Original
Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799. John C. Fitzpatrick, Editor
- Auckland City fireworks bans.
- Nash, Gary, The Urban Crucible, The Northern Seaports and
the Origins of the American Revolution, 1986, ISBN