All About Bonfire Night
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Why do we have Bonfire Night on 5th November?
Bonfire Night remembers the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 when a group of men planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament using gunpowder. The 'Guy' traditionally burned on the bonfire is Guy Fawkes who was involved in the plot.
Who was Guy Fawkes?
Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 in York. He went off to fight for Catholic Spain in the 'Eighty Years War' against the Protestant Dutch reformers. Then he tried but failed to gain support for a Catholic rebellion against James 1, the King of England.
When Guy Fawkes came back to England he met Robert Catesby, who planned to assassinate King James I by blowing up the Houses of Parliament and everyone in it, and put a Catholic monarch on the throne.
Guy Fawkes had gained plenty of experience with explosives while fighting, which is why he was given the task of lighting the gunpowder on 5th November. But the plan was discovered and he was arrested, tortured, and put to death.
The true ring-leader was Robert Catesby. However he was never captured.
The discovery of the Gunpowder Plot was used as an excuse to continue to treat Catholics in England very badly. Over the years the anti-Catholic nature of Bonfire Night has faded and it is now celebrated as a night to light bonfires, watch fireworks, and welcome in winter.
What did Guy Fawkes look like?
He was "a tall, powerfully built man, with thick reddish-brown hair, a flowing moustache in the tradition of the time, and a bushy reddish-brown beard... a man of action.." according to his biographer Antonia Fraser.
What does 'penny for the guy' mean?
In the past, and still in some places today, children would make a 'guy' representing Guy Fawkes from old clothes stuffed with rags and straw. They would drag the guy around the streets and ask neighbours for a penny to spend on fireworks.
What is traditional Bonfire Night food?
What happens on Bonfire Night?
Many towns and local communities light bonfires and have a firework display. Sometimes they hold torch-lit processions.
The fireworks are a reminder of the 36 barrels of gunpowder that were found under the Houses of Parliament.
Did you know? Fireworks were invented in China. The first recorded firework display in Europe was in Florence. There were fireworks at the wedding of King Henry VII in 1486.