You may have heard of Guy Fawkes Night, a festival celebrated in the UK on the fifth of November. People celebrate with fireworks and bonfires. However you probably haven’t heard of the Tar Barrels, a festival celebrated on the same day in a small village in the south-west of England.
On this night, the fifth of November, huge crowds gather in the usually sleepy village of Ottery St Mary to celebrate what could be the craziest festival in England. The main attraction of the festival is the tar barrels themselves. The barrels, which are large round containers made of wood, are filled with tar – a sticky black fuel. One of the villagers places the huge barrel on their back and it is set on fire. The villager has to run up and down the street, carrying this massive container, whilst crowds watch and cheer. There are several different processions with different people carrying barrels. The villagers wear protective clothing so that they don’t get burnt, but it still seems like a pretty scary thing to do!
As well as the tar barrels, there are also stalls selling local food and drink. You can buy warming foods such as burgers and hot dogs which offer the perfect way to warm up on a cold November night. Stalls also sell cider, which is the local drink. In an open village square you can also find a large bonfire. These more tame elements are the things that you would usually find at other Guy Fawkes Night celebrations across the country.
Last year I went to this festival myself. I live in a town not too far from Ottery St Mary and I joined many others from the surrounding areas to witness this crazy festival. I can confirm that it was indeed crazy, and at times a little bit scary! Never before have I been so close to an open fire. However I enjoyed the festive atmosphere and it was interesting to be part of a local tradition that has been passed down for many years. It offers something a bit different from other celebrations on the fifth of November. Despite the craziness, I would recommend going to the Tar Barrels if you are ever in the area at this time of year!
What do you think of this festival? Do you have any crazy festivals where you live?