What is bonfire night and why do people celebrate it in London? Every year on the 5th of November I listen to the deafening sounds of fireworks echoing throughout the city. In every direction the sparkle and brightness of brilliant light displays flash and fade for hours. However, this build up starts long before the evening of the 5th.
As early as two weeks before the date fireworks go on sale. Every weekend, spectacular displays light up the night sky. This could also be due to the celebration of Diwali, a Hindu festival which falls around the same time.
The first time I heard fireworks on the 5th of November I was confused. As an American I did not understand the significance of the day or why people celebrated it. This started my education and integration into British society but more specifically into London life.
According to the Telegraph, “November 5th is the day when Britons everywhere set fire to things and let things off.”
A brief history of Bonfire Night in London (Guy Fawkes Night)
Bonfire Night is also known as Guy Fawkes Night. Guy Fawkes was the key figure in a conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I. It was known as the Gunpowder Plot and failed in 1605 when Guy Fawkes was discovered and arrested under the Houses of Parliament.
As a result of the failed plot the event is commemorated every year on the 5th of November. Throughout the city of London great bonfires are lit and firework displays brighten the skies. Typically on the top of bonfires effigies of Guy Fawkes are set ablaze. Consequently, this historic event gave rise to an English folk Verse (c. 1870) called “The Fifth of November”.
Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot
Where can you see firework displays and bonfires?
Like in America on Independence Day, you can see firework displays anywhere you look in the city of London. However, for the actual bonfires and large firework displays most people head to the Royal Parks or any large common green area (parks).
Below are a few websites which list places to see such events.
- The Telegraph’s article, history and firework displays
- Visit London’s website on the event
- Timeout’s website on London fireworks
My Final Thoughts
In conclusion, I wonder if Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes Night) is still celebrated for the failed Gunpowder Plot or has this day become another in a long line of commercialized holidays. Is it just another night of drinking and having fun or a day that people are thankful for a failed plot? What are your thoughts on the 5th of November in London? Feel free to share below.