Monday, November 5, 2012

Bonfire Night

Oh how I miss Bonfire Night and everything that went with it on November 5th. The incredible anticipation or waiting for my dad to get home from work with boxes of fireworks when I was but a lad. It was one of the annual rituals of growing up in England and, as a celebration, rivaled Christmas and birthdays for the sheer excitement of it all.

It is, of course, the annual celebration of the discovery of a plot to blow up the houses of Parliament in London by Guy Fawkes and his band of anarchists.

              "Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder treason and plot
                    I know of no reason why the Gunpowder treason should ever be forgot"

The full verse is much longer but this s all we ever had to remember. For weeks leading up to Bonfire Night, every school boy and girl would be collecting combustible material to build the largest bonfire they could manage in their back yard. It was tended with loving care as the days grew shorter. Guy effigies would be made by stuffing old clothes with whatever was available to make them as life-like as possible. The Guy was always topped off with an evil looking mask. As the day approached praying in earnest would begin that it would not rain, for rain was the absolute scourge of everything related to bonfire night. The fire would not burn and the damp fireworks would not light, and this in a country renowned for its rain.   

The fireworks were the highlight of the night and only my dad was allowed to light them, at least until by brother and I were old enough, around 12 or so, to be given the lighting honor. Catherine wheels were always pinned to the same tree and jumping jacks always terrified me. The rockets were spectacular but I was always worried that the burning embers would start a fire somewhere. They never did, of course. Later, when we were teenagers we were only interested in "bangers" which were virtually small charges of gunpowder that made the most incredible bang.

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