I work as an English language assistant in Spain and this week I was asked to do a presentation for my classes about Halloween and the ways in which we celebrate it in the UK. Now, I work at a school with another English language assistant who is from the USA. So, whilst she has lots of things to talk about for Halloween (North American Halloween is crazy! Think outrageous costumes, extravagant decorations, parades ... ) as a Brit, I found it difficult to think of any significant differences between how we celebrate Halloween in comparison to the Spanish ... After unsuccessfully trying to create an exciting presentation, I suddenly thought, 'Why not talk about a different festival - Guy Fawkes Night?! It is SO English!'
After doing my presentation multiple times, I have discovered that nobody really knows about this English tradition, not even teachers who have lived in England! Yet, in England, nearly everybody celebrates Guy Fawkes Night. Even if you don't want to celebrate, you can't escape all of the fireworks and bonfires! So, I have decided to briefly explain what it is all about here.
In 1605, a man called Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament (important government buildings in the UK) by using gunpowder (the substance found in guns and fireworks) in order to kill King James. This is known as the Gunpowder Plot. Fawkes was caught and arrested, and later burned alive as punishment for his crime.
Every year in England we commemorate this event and we celebrate the fact that Fawkes was stopped, not that he wanted to kill the King in the first place!. We celebrate by letting off fireworks and building bonfires. We also make guys, which are models of a man made of clothes and stuffed with newspaper, and throw them onto the bonfires to symbolise the burning of Guy Fawkes.
As I have been explaining this tradition to my students, the whole celebration has started to sound more and more bizarre! Yet, for me, Bonfire Night (another name for Guy Fawkes Night) brings many happy memories of being with my family in our winter coats and scarves, standing by the bonfire to warm up, watching fireworks and drinking hot chocolate. So, whilst Guy Fawkes Night is about history it is also a lot of fun!
If you want to know more about how we celebrate, take a look at this video about Bonfire Night.
Does Bonfire Night remind you of any festivals where you come from?