11/5/08

My MOST homesick day of the year

Today I am missing one of my favourite days of national celebrations in the UK, Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes. This is a uniquely British event and as huge to us as Halloween is to you.

The tradition of Guy Fawkes related bonfires, actually began the very same year as the failed ‘Gunpowder Plot’ by Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. The Plot was foiled in the night between the 4th and 5th of November 1605, when many caskets of primed gunpowder were found in the cellars beneath the building. By the very next day, angry Londoners who knew only that their King had been saved, joyfully lit bonfires in thanksgiving.

Guy Fawkes, a nobleman, was executed for leading the plot to kill the King and his parliament.

As the years have gone by, the celebrations have grown hugely in stature to become a national institution.

People began placing effigies onto bonfires and going around streets and homes, displaying their dummy of ‘Guy’ and chanting “penny for the Guy”. These representations of Guy Fawkes, and sometimes those of the Pope, graced the huge bonfires. Still today, some communities throw dummies of both Guy Fawkes and the Pope on the bonfire, the gesture is seen by most now as a quirky Brit’ tradition.

The pennies collected for the Guy are then put towards the cost of fireworks. On the night itself, Guy is placed on top of the bonfire, which is then set alight and fireworks displays fill the sky.

The extent of the celebrations and the size of the bonfire vary from one community to the next. But all the major cities and towns will have some kind of Bonfire night event, lighting up the sky with fantastic firework displays. In years past we have even lit beacons on high points across the country, to form a chain of fires. Lewes, in the South East of England, is famous for its Bonfire Night festivities and attracts thousands of people each year to participate.

Flying into England after dark on November 5th is quite a sight, with many fires lit and fireworks literally going off all around. I remember driving home from work each year and watching fireworks all the way, on my 55 mile journey! It is really hard to put into words the extent of the celebrations or the magical quality this night holds for many Brit’s.

The Bonfire Night tradition crossed oceans and also became tradition in the British colonies over the centuries. November 5th bonfires still light up in far away places like New Zealand and Newfoundland.

Immortalized in this nursery rhyme, the Gunpowder Plot is introduced early into the young minds of children throughout the United Kingdom.

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Guy Fawkes, guy, t'was his intent
To blow up king and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England's overthrow.
By god's mercy he was catch'd With a darkened lantern and burning match.

So, holler boys, holler boys,
Let the bells ring.
Holler boys, holler boys,
God save the king.
And what shall we do with him?
Burn him!

It is traditional to stand outside and watch the display, whilst enjoying foods associated with this night. These include Baked Potatoes from the bonfire embers, proper Brit’ Sausages cooked in the fire, Hot Chocolate to drink and Treacle Toffee to chew on. Below is the recipe for this, which is another thing I really miss from home.

So tonight I will be very homesick and thinking of all the fun I am missing with family and friends back home.


· Treacle Toffee To Stick Jaws Shut ·

2 1/2 cups soft brown sugar
1/2 cup demerera sugar (crystalized, light brown sugar)
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup black treacle
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vinegar
Recommended equipment: Candy Thermometer.

Before you start, butter a low-side cake-tin and set aside, you'll be pouring the toffee in it for setting later. Place ingredients in large heavy pan and heat slowly, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Then, cover and bring to a strong boil. To keep mixture from sticking to the bottom, stir for the next 10 minutes, or until your mixture reaches 280ºF. If you don't have a candy thermometer and you want to check that your mixture is ready, drop a little of the mixture, into a glass of cold water.

If it forms a hard ball, then the toffee is ready to be set. Pour into the tin you prepared and let cool. When the toffee is half set, mark it into squares. When the toffee is hard, break it up, and eat inordinate amounts.

13 comments:

Anglophile Football Fanatic said...

Ever since I read Hardy, I've always wanted to do Guy Fawkes.

Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) said...

Bon fires are great and the community gatherings in villages are special and I too miss that, but not the bloody fireworks! We always ended up with a few terrified cats seeking refuge from the noise. That part I don't miss.

pamokc said...

Watch my post on Sunday (probably) with a local version of this! The burning of many guys on the fire! Remember, you **guys** are invited!

Stuart Peel said...

I know how you feel. I miss standing in the cold, holding a sparkler and eating a sausage. There are some things that you can only have at home.

Winifred said...

I used to love this when I was little but I've changed my mind now.

I'm not a mad fan of Bonfire Night mainly because of the accidents, there always seem to be children injured because shops still sell them illegally. Also in the run up to it the Fire Services have to put out or remove lots of illegal bonfires and then they're often attacked by yobs. That's the newer anti-social side of it.

I'm listening to the noise of the fireworks now and it's drowning out the TV. They seem to be noisier each year and it does terrify the animals.

Daryl said...

(((Sarah))) .. I understand how you could be so missing home now .. maybe Hubster can build you a small bonfire ...

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Daryl oh this made me laugh. Little do you know but we are under High Fire Danger warning here today, due to 40mph winds. So maybe not my friend!

Rob & Winifred - I do agree about the pets, I was the same with my cat, but I still miss it

Pam - if only we could

Brandon and Julie said...

Isn't this what V for Vendetta was based on or something to that affect? I was actually writing down our intake dates and realized it was the 5th, made me think of the movie, making me think of the three Brits I have encountered in my life, thereby I thought about you, so I checked your blog, and you blogged about this. How funny is that? Hope all is well!!

Cathy said...

And yet its a tradition that never took off here in Australia

Possibly 'cose November can be an early fire danger month

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Julie - I didn't know that movie was based on this having never seen it. And yes that was a funny coincidence!LOL

Kay said...

Thank you very much for this post. I remember reading something about this a long, long time ago. This is very interesting. I sounds like such a fun and exciting tradition if not a tad bit on the violent side.

butlersabroad said...

Well, I wasn't feeling homesick until I read your post, lol!!! I have fond memories of Bonfire Night as a child, but I'm sure as someone else has pointed out, it's changed somewhat. I now have a hankering for a burnt baked potato cooked in the fire!

Mmm said...

I love telling people about Guy Fawke's Day as it seems so incredibly like some pagen fest with throwing the "guy" on the bonfire, etc! Wonderful stuff. Yes, miss it too.