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Bonfires and Burning the Guy

Bonfires and Burning the Guy

The tradition of Bonfire Night began the same year as the failed Gunpowder Plot. The conspiracy was foiled in the night between the 4th and 5th November 1605, and already on 5th November agitated Londoners, who knew little more than their King had been saved, lit bonfires in thanksgiving.

In 1606 Parliament agreed to make 5th November a day of public thanksgiving and ever since then the day has been celebrated with bonfires and fireworks.

Preparations for Bonfire Night include making a dummy of Guy Fawkes (called the “Guy”), which is placed on top of the bonfire before it is set alight. Sometimes in the week or so before Bonfire Night children will take their Guys on to the street and beg “a penny for the Guy”. The money then goes towards the fireworks.

The extent of the celebrations and the size of the bonfire varies from one community to the next. In Sussex, towns such as Lewes compete to have the best Bonfire Night celebrations. The Guys used in these celebrations can be enormous – the height of a small house – and under the guy’s arm is placed a barrel of gunpowder, so you can imagine the bang when it goes off!

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