Bonfire Night

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Remember remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot,
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!


The tradition of lighting bonfires on 5th November began on that night in 1605.

A group of 13 Londoners led by Robert Catesby conspired to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

After the death of Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1603, the Catholics of England hoped that her successor, James 1 would be more tolerant of their religion. Unfortunately he wasn’t and the conspirators (who were all Catholics) decided that the only way to make a change in England would be to get rid of the King and most of the members of Parliament who were on his side.

The group of conspirators managed to acquire 36 barrels of gunpowder and stored them in a cellar deep beneath the House of Lords. Some of the conspirators started to become worried that a lot of innocent people would be maimed and killed in the explosion and had second thoughts about the plot.

One of the conspirators sent a warning letter to a friend of his, Lord Monteagle. This letter was swiftly passed on to the King.


Guy Fawkes (otherwise known as Guido) was found in the Parliament cellar surrounded by barrels of gunpowder early in the morning of November 5th 1605. When news reached the population of London that a treasonous plot had been uncovered they celebrated the safety of their King in the streets by lighting bonfires that night. The practice of lighting bonfires in celebration might date back to the Celtic celebration of Samhain. Bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits. Perhaps the people of London wanted to make sure that the evil spirit of Guy Fawkes was gone for good.

Guy Fawkes was arrested and tortured until he informed the guards of the details of his co-conspirators. The group were then killed in a variety of ways, mostly by public execution.


In 1606 Parliament decreed that 5th November was to become a day of public thanksgiving. The tradition of lighting bonfires started and quickly became a popular event. Fireworks and effigies of Guy Fawkes were added to the event as time went by as did the practice of eating jacket potatoes and toffee apples. The event became known as Guy Fawkes night because although there were 12 other conspirators, it was Guy Fawkes who was actually found in the cellar and was the first to be arrested.

People in England hold their own Bonfire parties at home or attend a public celebration. The most well known of these celebrations is the one in a town called Lewes in Sussex. Thousands of people attend this event and it is most probably the largest of its kind in England although many other towns hold similar celebrations on a smaller scale.

The tradition of lighting bonfires on 5th November crossed the oceans with the English who were bound for life in other countries. Bonfire night is still celebrated in New Zealand and Newfoundland although not on such large a scale as in the UK.

The event is now a firm tradition in the UK and an excuse for a good fireworks show! Bonfire night does now not just happen on 5th November but on the weekend closest to that day to enable many more people to get together and enjoy a public display.

Many towns actually have their own Bonfire Night committee in charge of the nights events, usually called the Bonfire Boys. This term probably evolved from the group of male conspirators in 1605.

Some children in the UK still carry on the custom of making a guy out of old clothes stuffed with socks or straw. They take the guy round from door to door or display him in the town and say “A penny for the guy”. The money they receive from kindly passers-by and neighbours is used to buy fireworks.

A Tribal Bonfire Night?

The Tribe have not celebrated Bonfire night. Perhaps they live in a country where it was not a tradition?

Zoot was sent off to his resting ground in a blaze of flames but this is not something that would be cause for a traditional event to come out of it.

Perhaps in the future the Tribe will have cause to celebrate if they manage to put an end to all the chaos and fighting that has been going on?

If and when life returns back to how it was or there is a major breakthrough in the quality of life in the world of the Tribe, there is likely to be a big celebration. This would probably go on to be marked each and every year because that is the way that customs and traditions come about in the first place.

The actual cast of The Tribe enjoy Bonfire Night and whilst they are filming in Wellington they normally go to watch the big fireworks extravaganza in the city.

Check out the interview section to see how some of the cast celebrate Bonfire night when they are not filming.

Next week we will take a look at the history of THANKSGIVING.



  • Always buy fireworks that display this code – BS7114 – and buy them from a reputable shop
  • Keep fireworks in a tin or box with a lid that fits it firmly
  • Follow the specific instructions on each firework
  • Light fireworks at arms length and with a taper
  • Wear gloves when handling fireworks
  • Look for fireworks in their storage container by using a torch and not a naked flame such as a match or lighter
  • Stand well back and never return to a firework once it s lit
  • Never put fireworks in a pocket
  • Never throw fireworks
  • Always light sparklers one at a time
  • Never give sparklers to a child under 5 years of age
  • Keep pets indoors
  • Check bonfire before it is lit to make sure there are no animals hiding in it