Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Guy Fawkes night
Bonfire Night, also known as Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes Night or Fireworks Night, is a celebration (but not a public holiday) which takes place on the evening of the 5th of November every year in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and formerly Australia, although in recent years the celebration has spread out to encompass a period of several days or even weeks before or after the exact date. It celebrates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, in which a group of Catholic conspirators attempted to blow up the British Houses of Parliament along with King James I on that date in 1605.
The traditional celebrations take place in cities, towns and villages across the country. Ironically enough, they involve a display of fireworks and the building of a bonfire, upon which is burnt an effigy representing the most famous of the conspirators, Guy Fawkes. Children build popular or humorous dummies and beg for money with the chant "penny for the guy", but this tradition is not as popular as it once was. The night is closely associated with the popular rhyme which begins:
- Remember, remember the fifth of November,
- Gunpowder, treason and plot,
- I see no reason why gunpowder treason
- Should ever be forgot.
For the full text of the rhyme, see the article on the Gunpowder Plot.
Despite the nature of the events commemorated, little political or sectarian significance is attached to Bonfire Night in modern times. The later verses of Remember, remember...., which express violent anti-Catholic sentiment, are not widely recalled. Bonfire night is now just as celebrated within Britain's Catholic communities. The once common practice of burning effigies of the Pope is now largely discontinued (except at Lewes, where the night has additional significance).
In the weeks leading up to November 5, fireworks become widely available throughout the UK. A large number of injuries are caused at this time of year by the irresponsible use of fireworks. Recent years have seen increasing calls, from emergency service members amongst others, for a ban on the public sale of fireworks, allowing their use only at licensed displays. Less drastically, some have suggested that the use of fireworks should be permitted only on Bonfire Night itself or on the closest Saturday to that date. To this end The Fireworks Regulations 2004 came into force on August 7th 2004. This specifically prohibits detonation of fireworks after 23:00 except on specific days; restricts the sale of fireworks to certain windows during the year; and prohibits their sale to minors.
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