Guy Fawkes Night

Guy Fawkes Night

Infobox Holiday
holiday_name=Guy Fawkes Night

caption=Guy Fawkes
nickname=Bonfire Night
Cracker Night
Fireworks Night
observedby=United Kingdom and some of its former colonies
date= Evening of the 5th of November
observances=Bonfires, fireworks, etc.
type=Cultural, Remembrance
significance=Foiling of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill King James I, in London in 1605

Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night, Cracker Night, Fireworks Night) is an annual celebration on the evening of the 5th of November. It celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of the 5 November 1605 in which a number of Catholic conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London, England.

It is primarily marked in the United Kingdom where it was compulsory, by Royal Decree, to celebrate the deliverance of the King until 1859, but also in former British colonies including New Zealand, parts of Canada, and parts of the British Caribbean.Fact|date=November 2007 Bonfire Night was also common in Australia until the 1980sFact|date=November 2007, but it was held on the Queen's Birthday long weekend in June some states (e.g., New South Wales) and 5 November in others (e.g., Victoria). Festivities are centred on the use of fireworks and the lighting of bonfires.

Local customs

United Kingdom

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 displays and the building of bonfires on which "guys" are burnt. These "guys" are traditionally effigies of Guy Fawkes, the most famous of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. Although the night is celebrated in York (Fawkes' hometown) some there do not burn his effigy, most notably those from his old school. [Citation |url= |title=H2G2 Entry on York, England |publisher=BBC ] Before the fifth, children traditionally use the "guys" to request a "penny for the guy" in order to raise funds with which to buy fireworks, although this custom seems to have died out in recent years and has widely been supplanted by the American import trick or treat.fact|date=June 2008

In the United Kingdom, there are several foods that are traditionally consumed on Guy Fawkes Night:
* black treacle goods such as bonfire toffee [Citation |url= |publisher=Times Online |date=October 20, 2007 |title=Where to get the best treacle toffee |first=Sheila |last= Keating ] and parkin, [Citation |url=,,2203374,00.html |title=How to bake 100-year-old parkin |first=Dan |last= Lepard |publisher=The Guardian |date=November 3, 2007 ]
* toffee apples [Citation |url=,,2202178,00.html |title= The G2 weekly recipe: toffee apples and pears |publisher=The Guardian |first=Allegra |last= McEvedy |date=October 31, 2007 ] [cite web|url=|title=Tasty toffee apples|accessdate=2007-11-11|work=BBC - Hereford & Worcester] ]
* baked potatoes, which are wrapped in foil and cooked in the bonfire or its embers [Citation |url= |date=26 March 2004 |title= Tantalising recipes for your bonfire feast |publisher=BBC ] [Citation |title=The top 10 Guy Fawkes links |date=3/11/2007 |url= |publisher=Telegraph ]
* black peas with vinegar [Citation |url=,,327387,00.html |title=Bean feast |publisher=The Guardian |date=June 3, 2000 |first=Fiona |last=Beckett ]

In the Black Country, it is a traditional night for eating groaty pudding.Fact|date=November 2007

In Sussex, it is a major festival that centres on Lewes necessitating the closure of the town centre. The night also commemorates the Glorious Revolution and 17 local Protestant martyrs that were burnt at the stake during Marian Persecutions of the Catholic Queen Mary I [Citation |url= |title=Lewes Bonfire Night: An Explosive Event ] . The night begins with torchlight processions in costume by a number of local bonfire societies and culminates in six separate bonfires where effigies of Guy Fawkes, Pope Paul V and topical personalities are destroyed by firework and flame.

In Scotton, the locals do not burn effigies of Guy Fawkes due to the village's connection to him. Up until recently, the Catholic school Stonyhurst College, would avoid any celebration, because of their connection to the other plotters (three of them went to the school).

In Ottery St Mary, in Devon, burning barrels of tar are carried through the streets::"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. [ [ Ottery St Mary Tar Barrels ] ] Guy Fawkes Night is less commonly celebrated in Northern Ireland, where autumn fireworks and bonfires are more commonly associated with Hallowe'en [Citation |title=“Remember Remember the 5th of November” says Donaldson |date=November 1, 2007 |first=Kenny |last=Donaldson |url=] .


In Canada, Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes Night is still celebrated in various places. The tradition was planted along with other cultural practices of British colonists in the 19th century [Citation |title=] .

The celebration, however, has been modified over two centuries since arriving from the United Kingdom as the following reveals:

"The night is also still celebrated in Nanaimo, British Columbia. The custom was brought over by English 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."Citation |title=!openframeset&frame=Right&Src=/edible.nsf/pages/guyfawkes!opendocument/]

On the Atlantic side of Canada, home of Britain's oldest overseas colony, Newfoundland, Guy Fawkes bonfires are still burnt in many parts of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The celebrations are widespread enough to merit recent mention by the provincial Minister of Environment and Conservation:

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 night.

“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.”" [Citation |title=]

While not necessarily widely celebrated elsewhere in Canada, the story of Guy Fawkes and the original Gunpowder Plot is still taught to many Canadian students. One amusing outcome of this was a mock version of a Guy Fawkes plot to blow up the Parliament of Canada in Ottawa on 6 November, 2006. The updated "plot" was recorded on YouTube. [Citation |title=]

Elsewhere in Ontario, Guy Fawkes Night observances based on the original tradition have also become rather flexible as evident from the practices continued, loosely, at the University of Toronto's, Trinity College:

"Remember, remember the third of November? Traditionally Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated on the fifth, but as we all know, Trinity College does not follow a normal set of traditions. Instead, this year’s festivities were held two days early so that they might fall more conveniently on a Thursday, coinciding with a themed debate from the Literary Institute. The Euchre Committee was well prepared with an effigy of Fawkes, complete with explosives, and mulled wine was served to all lookers-on. Pyrotechnics for all to enjoy!" [Citation |title=]

Colonial America

This day was celebrated in the colonies and was called "Pope's Day". It was the high point of antipopery in New England. In the 1730s or earlier Boston's artisans commemorated the day with a parade and performances which mocked popery and the Catholic Stuart pretender. It was 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. [Nash, pg. 165]

Modern United States

The night has been celebrated for the past 11 years in the ocean community of Westerly in the state of Rhode Island, U.S.A.. The night is begun with a musical comedy based on the events of Guy Fawkes' capture, written in the style of an English Monty Python comedy sketch. Every year, it is slightly rewritten by a dedicated team of locals who also provide the acting and musical arrangements which include Beatles and Rolling Stones covers. Finally, the night is rounded out with a Guy Fawkes bonfire, weather permitting. The event is always held on the beach, and in the fall the New England coastline is a bit windy and cold so the event is always different depending greatly on the weather and the number of people in the audience. [ [ New Page 2 ] ] is the website to the event, held each October (due to weather) and directed by Caswell Cooke.

outhern hemisphere

Bonfire 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.

In Australia, Guy Fawkes Night is mostly known simply as Bonfire Night and bears little connection to its original purpose.Fact|date=November 2007 Celebration of Bonfire Night has died down due to the banning of fireworks in most states and territories to prevent their misuse. 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. It is also referred to as Cracker Night (mainly before the ban was enacted) by some Australians and celebrated in a song of the same name by Australian singer, John Williamson.

Although one of the reasons for the ban on fireworks was the danger of bushfires during hot Novembers, since the ban, private (and therefore illegal) fireworks have become increasingly popular on New Years Eve, an even more dangerous time for bushfires.

The day was movedwhen to a more suitable time of year due to the threat of bush fires in the dry Australian summer. In New Zealand, the sale of fireworks has been increasingly regulated. Firecrackers have been banned since 1993, and rockets (or any firework where the firework itself flies) have been banned since 1994. [Citation |url= |title=New Zealand is ready for a fireworks retail ban
date=17 October 2006
] 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. [Citation |url= |title=Sales rocketing despite tougher rules |date=Nov 2, 2007 ] Despite those sales restrictions, there is actually no restriction on when one may light fireworks, only a restriction on when they may be sold. [Citation |url= |title=Not illegal to let off fireworks |date=Nov 8, 2005 |publisher=TV NZ ] Prime Minister Helen Clark is considering banning the sale of personal fireworks in New Zealand, [Citation |url= |title=Fireworks sales facing total ban as PM talks tough |publisher=The New Zealand Herald |date=November 05, 2007 |first=Wayne |last=Thompson ] although 2007 was one of the "quietest on record" according to the NZ fire service. [Citation |url= |title=Guy Fawkes quietest in decades |date=Nov 6, 2007 |publisher=One News]

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.


In the Caribbean nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, this is a very exciting night in the town of Barrouallie, on the main island of Saint Vincent's leeward side. The town's field comes ablaze as people come to see all of the traditional pyrotechnics.

In Antigua and Barbuda, Guy Fawkes Night used to be more popular back in the 90's, until a fireworks ban has made it almost non existent.

Traditional rhymes

::"Remember, remember the Fifth of November,"::"The Gunpowder Treason and Plot to surrender,"::"I know of no reason ::"Why the Gunpowder Treason"::"Should ever be forgot."::"Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent"::"To blow up King and Parli'ment."::"Three-score barrels of powder below"::"To prove old England's overthrow;"::"By God's providence he was catch'd"::"With a dark lantern and burning match."::"Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring."::"Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!"Traditionally the following verse was also sung, but it has fallen out of favour because of its content.

::"A penny loaf to feed the Pope::"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 lampost".

ee also

* Sussex Bonfire Societies
* Guy Fawkes Carnival



* Nash, Gary, "The Urban Crucible, The Northern Seaports and the Origins of the American Revolution", 1986, ISBN 0674930584

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Guy Fawkes Night — Mise à feu d’une effigie de Guy Fawkes Nom officiel Guy Fawkes Night Autre nom Bonfire Night Fireworks Night Plot Night …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Guy Fawkes' Night — Guy Fawkes’ Night UK [ˌɡaɪ ˈfɔːks ˌnaɪt] US [ˌɡaɪ ˈfɔks ˌnaɪt] in the UK, the evening of 5th November, when people light fires outside and have fireworks . Guy Fawkes’ Night is also called Bonfire Night .… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Guy Fawkes' Night — [ˌgaı ˈfo:ks naıt US ˈfo:ks ] n BrE [Date: 1800 1900; Origin: Guy Fawkes (1570 1606), one of the men who tried to blow up the English parliament in 1605] November 5th, when people in Britain light ↑fireworks and burn a ↑guy on a fire = ↑bonfire… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Guy Fawkes' Night — [ ,gaı fɔks ,naıt ] in the U.K., the evening of November 5, when people light fires outside and have FIREWORKS. Guy Fawkes Night is also called Bonfire Night …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Guy Fawkes Night — Die Schwarzpulververschwörer, Zeichnung von Crispijn van de Passe dem Älteren. Dritter von rechts: Guy Fawkes. Die Schießpulververschwörung (engl. Gunpowder Plot, seiner Zeit als Powder treason (Pulververrat) bekannt) war ein Versuch von… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Guy Fawkes Night — noun effigies of Guy Fawkes are burned on this night • Syn: ↑Bonfire Night • Hypernyms: ↑November 5 * * * Guy Fawkes night [Guy Fawkes night] [ˈɡaɪ fɔːks naɪt] [ˈɡaɪ fɔːks naɪt] …   Useful english dictionary

  • Guy Fawkes Night — [[t]ga͟ɪ fɔːks naɪt[/t]] N UNCOUNT In Britain, Guy Fawkes Night is the evening of 5th November, when many people have parties with bonfires and fireworks. It began as a way of remembering the attempt by Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of… …   English dictionary

  • Guy Fawkes' Night — UK [ˌɡaɪ ˈfɔːks ˌnaɪt] / US [ˌɡaɪ ˈfɔks ˌnaɪt] in the UK, the evening of 5th November, when people light fires outside and have fireworks. Guy Fawkes Night is also called Bonfire Night …   English dictionary

  • Guy Fawkes Night — ➡ note at Bonfire Night. * * * …   Universalium

  • Guy Fawkes night — noun a celebration, on the 5th of November, to remember the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 Syn: bonfire night …   Wiktionary

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