The historic origins of Bonfire Night date to the conflict between virtually outlawed Catholics and the Protestant establishment of the 16th and early 17th century. On November 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes (the real one, not the stuffed variety) and a group of Catholic conspirators who felt badly treated by the King put 36 barrels of gunpowder in a cellar underneath the Houses of Parliament. (Not a bad idea, do I hear you say?) Some of those involved in the plot however, realised that innocent people would be killed in the explosion. One plotter wrote a letter warning his friend to stay away from Parliament on November 5, and this letter got to King James I. Guy Fawkes was in the cellar with the gunpowder when the king’s men arrived. His guilt was a bit of a give-away. He was taken away, tortured and sentenced to a very unpleasant death (not that it is ever fun…).
The date of the Gunpowder Plot coincided with the end of the English harvest season, traditionally marked with festivals. The fireworks that are now a firm part of Bonfire Night are, no doubt, a reminder of the barrels of gunpowder, but the huge bonfires are more likely to reflect ancient seasonal traditions once part of the Celtic Fire Festival of Samhain.
Enjoy the fun, treacle toffee, parkin, and of course the fireworks!