In case you forgot, November 5th is Guy Fawkes Day (although it’s now called “Bonfire night” in the UK). After a failed attempt to blow up the House of Parliament and assassinate the King of England, Guy Fawkes was captured on November 5, 1605. He later jumped (or fell) to his death from the gallows to avoid the rather gruesome end of being hung, drawn, and quartered (yes, it’s exactly as gory as it sounds). The next year parliament passed a law that the fifth day of November should be celebrated to commemorate the averted tragedy. Over the years, the annual event picked up traditions like burning effigies of Guy Fawkes, massive bonfires, and plenty of fireworks.
These days, people are likely to remember Guy Fawkes more for the mask bears his face, which started as a major part of the celebration. It’s now a symbol for rebellion, thanks to the comic book and movie V for Vendetta and favored by protesters, anarchists, and even “hacktivist” group Anonymous.
So in honor of this year’s fifth of November, we decided to take a look at just how this 410-year-old celebration is holding up all around the world.
As the place of origin for Guy Fawkes celebrations, you can catch amazing fireworks, bonfires, and parades, from cities that span from London to Edinburgh to Cardiff – wherever you are in the UK you’re sure to be a part of a major spectacle. Traditionally, children would make a “guy,” or life-size effigy of Guy Fawkes, and parade the effigy around asking “a penny for the guy” to spend on sparklers or candy, before it was thrown into the communal bonfire. The British, with their dark sense of humor, have no qualms in tossing effigies of controversial modern day politicians into the fire as well!
In the southernmost tip of Africa you may catch impressive displays of fireworks in cities like Cape Town in addition to plenty of people lighting fireworks in designated areas. In recent times, authorities have tightened regulations on lighting fireworks in backyards, but officials in larger cities have deemed certain parks and public areas safe locations for some types of small fireworks – so be careful where you light up. In a more African twist to the Guy Fawkes tradition, in certain townships, it’s not uncommon for kids to dress up like grownups and go house to house performing songs or dances in exchange for money.
If you’re in the Land of the Long White Cloud, you can commemorate Guy Fawkes by witnessing one of the many fireworks displays that are held in larger cities like Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch. Most locals can purchase fireworks but have to adhere to strict rules and regulations when purchasing for some backyard bangers.
Just north of the border, America’s neighbors have clung on to some of the traditions brought over by the first English settlers. Bonfires are lit in commemoration in small communities spread through the most easterly province of Newfoundland and Labrador. However, most younger generations wouldn’t exactly know the history behind the date, and perhaps even who Guy Fawkes is, but the event is still held in order to burn up fallen leaves and old branches, and also to create some friendly competition on who can make the biggest bonfire.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
For the former British colony in the Caribbean, Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated with English customs such as tea parties as well as the unique tradition of bamboo blowing, where heated kerosene is used to ignite an explosion in hollowed out bamboo cannons (to mimic the sound and fire of old cannons from the colonial days). In addition, there are fireworks displays on many beaches.
St. Kitts and Nevis
Once again, the Caribbean islands know how to party – and St. Kitts is no exception. Guy Fawkes is just another excuse to head down to the beach or attend a party where firework displays are the highlight of the night.
Have we missed any other places around the world that celebrate Guy Fawkes Day? Let us know in the comments below.