Last night I experienced a special UK tradition – Guy Fawkes or Bonfire Night – for the first time. In all major parks in and around London, there were bonfires, fireworks and lots of families and kids getting very excited.
To be honest, for me as a German it seemed like a strange mix between our “Walpurgisnacht” and New Year’s Eve but celebrated at the wrong time of year.
But there is a great story behind it:
In 1605, thirteen young men planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Among the members of the Gunpowder Plot was Guy Fawkes, soon to be remembered as Britain’s most notorious traitor. The plan didn’t work out in the end, and Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellar of the parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder on November 5th.
To celebrate the safety of King James I. people lit bonfires around London, and months later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure that continues today across the world wherever the British Monarchy once held power.
It’s strange how failed terrorist plots can turn into celebrations of bright explosions and smiling children.