07 November 2010

B for Bonfire!

Those of you who have seen V for Vendetta, without knowing any of the history behind Guy Fawkes, will no doubt have a very confused idea of why the British celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night.

I know this, because I had a very confused idea myself.

Guy Fawkes, it turns out, was actually a crazy Catholic nutjob who wanted to assassinate the Protestant King James I of England and VI of Scotland. To this end, they tried to blow up Parliament by renting a room underneath it (what kind of security was there back in 1605 anyway??) and filling it with barrels of gunpowder, but he was caught on 4th November, before he could actually set it on fire.

He confessed and after torture, revealed his partners-in-crime, and was sentenced to yet more torture and then death. He jumped from the gallows to kill himself before the state could begin its punishment, which would have been pretty awful. Then an Act of Parliament determined every 5th of November would be celebrated as a day of deliverance, when the King escaped the attack.

Citizens were encouraged to light bonfires and burn effigies of Guy Fawkes. But since it's called Guy Fawkes Night, even a lot of Brits are under the mistaken impression that it's a celebration of Guy Fawkes, not of his death.

Needless to say, I wasn't about to miss my first opportunity for a Bonfire Night. Since this year November 5th also happened to coincide with Diwali, I was feeling doubly in the mood for some fireworks.

Bonfire Night was held on Friday at Plattfields Park (remember that, Craig?), and the strangest thing to me was seeing fireworks and it wasn't
1) the Western New Year, or
2) Patriotic.
And I realised I've mostly only seen fireworks shows on January 1st and July 4th.

But it seems this night could have easily been patriotic; they could have played "God Save the Queen" or something, just for the historical value of celebrating the fact that a British monarch was, in fact, saved back in 1605. But they didn't. They played songs like "I'm a Firestarter," instead. Brilliant.

After the fireworks show, someone boring got up and read a poem about how Plattfields Park is the best park in the world (it isn't), and then he got his mates to play a song about how great Plattfields Park is (it's only a little great), and then finally, they lit the bonfire-- with fireworks!

Just try telling me that doesn't look crazy.

Soon after this, we made our way toward the fun fair, in search of food, but there were about 20 billion people in the park that night, so we decided we could more easily and quickly get food elsewhere. A successful Bonfire night overall: though it was cold and muddy from rain earlier in the day, it didn't rain during the fireworks show, and the bonfire raged into the night. It was so bright, I couldn't get a decent picture of it!

Opal Gardens, my residence hall, held our own Bonfire Night on Saturday. We had a barbecue with free food and music outdoors-- good fun. Cold, very cold, but again no rain, so people came out and partied for awhile.

But now it's Sunday, and I'm afraid the joy has worn off a bit. People are still shooting off fireworks. The random, staccato explosions are starting to wear my nerves down, and I'm feeling edgy. It's enough to make a girl want to rent a room underneath a very large building. After all, it's probably very quiet, right?

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