What is Bonfire Night?

Guy Fawkes Night takes place on November 5th each year.
Guy Fawkes Night takes place on November 5th each year.

Bonfire night refers to the celebrations carried out at night that involve lighting bonfires and fireworks. The celebrations are done to celebrate different traditions in some countries in Europe, the Caribbean and North America on different days. Today, this celebration has significant commercial value to it. Despite the environmental concerns over the effect of the fires and fireworks to the atmosphere as well as the physical danger it poses to the people, bonfire nights are still celebrated. Restrictions are still in place for the use of fireworks in some countries.

Bonfire Night in Great Britain

Bonfire night is celebrated on November 5th and it is also known as Guy Fawkes night. Bonfires and fireworks are put on display during this day. The day has a rich history behind it; Guy Fawkes is the reason behind this day due to his infamous plot to assassinate the Protestant King James I in 1605. The plot involved placing explosives in the House of Lords and Guy Fawkes was to guard it. The plot failed and the conspirators were arrested. King James I allowed the citizens to celebrate and they did so by lighting bonfires. The celebrations were approved on condition that there would be no disorder in the public. November 5th was to celebrate the fact that the King survived this plot. Parliament later recognized the day by passing the observance of November 5th Act. During this day anti-catholic sentiments were openly displayed as sermons were given to highlight the dangers of Popery. Effigies of hate figures were burnt. Settlers carried this tradition to British colonies in North America and in the now commonwealth countries. The celebrations declined as the religious and political meaning gradually faded from it. People now compete to show how high their rockets can fly and play trivia.

Bonfire Night in North Ireland

In Northern Ireland, bonfire night is known as the 11th Night. It comes before the Ulster Protestant celebration and it involves the lighting of bonfires made up of tall wooden pallets and tires. The 11th Night has a rich history due to its association with the glorious revolution of 1688 and the Williamite war in Ireland from 1689 to 1691. Fires were lit on the hills to help the Williamite ships to safely pass through the Belfast Nought during the night. Celebrating this day was to commemorate the defeat of the Catholic armies in 1690 in the battle of Boyne by Protestant armies. Symbols of Irish nationalism and displays of racism and intolerance towards the immigrants have been shown during this day. Concern over such displays is justified due to the fact that they bring incitement. Civil disorder is also a problem during this day as people get drunk and disorderly. Environmental pollution is also experienced due to the toxic fumes created by burning fires. Fires also cause damage to buildings. These concerns have been addressed by the Belfast City Council who have put in place regulations to stop pollution and the disorder as well as the hate symbols to be burnt.


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