Bonfire night: Gunpowder, treason and…Parkin

Battersea Park bonfire at night
Battersea Park bonfire, London

We’ve barely blown out the candles in our pumpkin lanterns after Halloween, yet already the UK is preparing for its next annual winter celebration. 5 November 2011 marks 406 years since Guy Fawkes’ thwarted plot to blow up London’s houses of parliament and kill the king. This makes Bonfire Night, as it is now widely known, one the oldest public festivals in England.

The name Bonfire Night derives from early celebrations of the occasion, when the public were encouraged to celebrate the king’s survival of the dastardly plot by lighting and gathering around bonfires.

However, over 400 years on, we’ve found many more ways to mark the Great Gunpowder Plot, and these days it’s one of the most fun packed nights of the year. Here are the main components for a traditional, British Bonfire Night party:

“Build a bonfire, build a bonfire…”

Of course, as the name would suggest, and in keeping with the origins of the festival, a large bonfire usually makes up the centre point of the party. It’s also the perfect way to keep your hands and nose warm. Just don’t get too close or else you may end up joining Guy.

“…put the Guy on top”

That’s right, the second necessity at a traditional November 5th party is a Guy effigy. Made from a straw stuffed into old clothes, the Guy goes at the top of the bonfire to symbolise support for the preservation of the old King, and burns along with it.

“Bake a Parkin, bake potatoes…”

Bonfire party food is delicious and hearty, designed to keep you warm on the cold British winter’s night. Some of the traditional things you’ll find are hot baked potatoes, chilli con carne, marshmallows toasted on the bonfire, and Parkin, an old sweet dessert originating from Guy Fawkes’ birth place in the north of England.

“…and watch the fireworks go off.”

To symbolise the gunpowder which would have exploded and blown up the houses of parliament and all who resided within them, the pinacle of all bonfire parties is a firework display. No matter what your age, writing your name in the air with a sparkler never gets boring.

There are organised events taking place across the UK for bonfire night, with a number of our INTO Centres running trips to firework displays in their local areas. So if you want to experience one of Britain’s quintessential winter celebrations, check your Centre’s Facebook page and find out what’s going on near you. And most important of all, wrap up warm, and stay safe. Happy Bonfire Night!

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1 Response

  1. Ulukbek says:

    Yeah, love this day, unlike Halloween. It’s full of kind fun and happy children staring at the fireworks

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