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Monday , 29 November 2021

Editorial: Bonfire Night, why it began, does it happen here?

It’s Bonfire Night, also known in the UK as Guy Fawkes Night (or Guy Fawkes Day), which ignites every November 5 to mark the failed 17th-century attempt to blow up Parliament and assassinate King James I.

During the era, Roman Catholicism had been the dominant form of Western Christianity in Britain throughout the Middle Ages, howevere, English Reformation was on the horizon with King Henry VIII’s desire to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. After this the Church of England became the independent established church in England and Wales in 1534.

Therefore this caused a shift for country-wide religious identity and supreme monachal rule began as more of a political affair.

Robert Catesby and his loyal group of provincial English Catholics, Guy Fawkes among them, masterminded The Gunpowder Plot of 1605. After decades of intolerance against Catholics, they planted over 30 barrels of gunpowder under the Houses of Parliament in an explosive bid to assassinate King James I.

Their plan was foiled by Lord Monteagle who had received a letter from his friend, one of Fawkes’ comrades, warning him to stay away from parliament on 5 November. Fawkes, who had been charged with lighting the gunpowder, was caught red-handed and the operation was dismantled.

After days of torture, Fawkes confessed the names of his co-conspirators and was sentenced to a gruesome sentence – he was to be hung, drawn and quartered. Despite his frail state, he managed to jump from the gallows and break his own neck. His body was still quartered and his remains were sent to the four corners of the kingdom as a warning to others. Pretty gruesome I know.

In celebration of his near-miss, King James I enforced the observance of an annual public holiday on 5 November. People lit bonfires around London and so the traditions began.

Until 1959 it was illegal to not celebrate Bonfire Night in Britain. The only exception was St Peter’s School in York – the school that Guy Fawkes attended.

As you all know, I am from Newfoundland not Disneyland. Newfoundland was a British colony until it joined Canada in 1949. Growing up on the rock, we always celebrated Bonfire night and many still do to this day.

My friends and I would start cutting bows, also know as evergreen tree branches, in early September to create a massive pile of tinder which we would light on fire on November 5 to celebrate this old British holiday.

Do children in Bonnyville and the Lakeland Region do this? Probably not, I mean PS5 is pretty entertaining and I’m sure parents these days don’t let their children play with axes and chainsaws.

I reached out to Dan Henney, who is the Acting Fire Chief for Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority (BRFA), to see if this is a thing in Bonnyville. I mean this place is full of Newfoundlanders.

“Well sir, Bonfire night is definitely a Newfoundlander thing based on Guy Fawkes day and I haven’t seen any celebrations out here on the frontier before,” Henney said. “However, if I was to offer advice it would be to follow your local bylaws on open fires/fire pits as the Town and the M.D. both have different requirements.”

Are you celebrating Bonfire night? Let me know in the comments section.

About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is from Whitbourne Newfoundland and graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner!