Guy Fawkes Night is an old English event celebrated each year on the evening of November 5th with bonfires, fireworks and family gatherings.
History Facts for Kids – Where did Guy Fawkes come from?
The origin of Guy Fawkes dates back to 1605 when a group of 12 men tried to blow up Britainâ€™s House of Parliament. This event became known as the Gunpowder Plot, and included Mr. Guy Fawkes, who established his reputation as one of Britainâ€™s most notorious traitors.
Under the rule of James 1st, English Catholics had been persecuted for many years. The 12 Gunpowder Plot conspirators believed that violent action was warranted to end this persecution. By blowing up the Houses of Parliament it was intended that they would kill the King, maybe even the Prince of Wales, and the Members of Parliament who were making life difficult for the Catholics.
To carry out their plan, the conspirators got hold of 36 barrels of gunpowder, and stored them in a cellar just under the House of Lords.
But as the group worked on the plot, it became clear that innocent people would be hurt or killed in the attack. Some of the plotters started having second thoughts. One of the group members even sent an anonymous letter warning his friend, Lord Monteagle, to stay away from the Parliament on November 5th.
The warning letter reached the King, and the King’s forces made plans to stop the conspirators. Guy Fawkes, who was in the cellar of the parliament with the 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities stormed it in the early hours of November 5th, was caught and sent to trial. To show the public that treason would not be tolerated, the judge sentenced Fawkes to the most horrendous form of execution available: that of being hung, drawn and quartered.
To ensure that this message to the public was reinforced, it became the tradition for a sermon to be delivered in Parliament every year on the anniversary of this date. This became known as the â€śGunpowder Plot Sermon.â€ť In addition, a poem or nursery rhyme was created to make sure that each new generation would remember the Gunpowder plot, and the nasty end that awaits traitors. This poem is sometimes called the â€śPlease to Remember the Fifth of Novemberâ€ť poem, or simply â€śRemember Remember the Fifth of Novemberâ€ť.
Remember, remember the fifth of November
The gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot
Guy Fawkes Guy, ’twas his intent
To blow up king and parliament
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England’s overthrow.
By God’s mercy he was catched
With a dark lantern and lighted match.
Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the King
How is Guy Fawkes celebrated in New Zealand?
New Zealanders celebrate the annual festival in the same way as the English do, with bonfires and fireworks lit on the official November 5 night (the only difference being that itâ€™s a lot warmer in New Zealand at this time of year!)
For kiwis, Guy Fawkes has become an occasion signalling the coming of summer and a chance for family and friends to get together and take in the excitement of spectacular fireworks. Unlike other festivals celebrated in New Zealand, Guy Fawkes does not include any special foods nor are gifts exchanged.
Guy Fawkes may be celebrated at home or at large public fireworks displays at schools, parks and stadiums. These public events enable people to see much more spectacular displays of fireworks, and also have a much higher level of safety than home-based celebrations.
Why are fireworks and bonfires part of the festival?
On the very night that the Gunpowder Plot was foiled, November 5th, 1605, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the King. Since then, the night has become known as Bonfire Night. The event is commemorated every year with fireworks and by burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire. The effigies are made out of old clothes stuffed with scrunched-up paper to make them look like a man (i.e. Guy Fawkes). These â€śGuysâ€ť are then put on the fire and burned.
Important aspects of Guy Fawkes
The letting off of fireworks is becoming an increasingly controversial subject with many people calling for a ban on the sale of fireworks. Each year that the night is celebrated the fire service is stretched to its limits dealing with fireworks related call-outs. In addition, Hospital Accident and Emergency departments have the dreadful task of treating burns, eye injuries and sometimes deaths caused by the misuse of fireworks and bonfires.
1. Safety Issues
The following are guidelines for the safe use of fireworks:
- Choose a safe place to let off your fireworks. Check that there is plenty of open space well away from anything which could catch fire.
- Make sure there is a good supply of water available.
- Store and carry your fireworks carefully and safely. Keep them out of reach of young children. Keep them in a closed box or bag away from heat and flames and do not carry fireworks in your pockets.
- Ensure that fireworks are lit by adults and not children.
- Read the instructions carefully on your fireworks, preferably before Guy Fawkes night and read each one again before you light it (remember to use a torch for this purpose).
- Stand your fireworks in dirt, sand or on a firm flat surface. Please remember that throwing fireworks can injure people and animals and damage property.
- Light your fireworks at armâ€™s length and then stand well back. Keep well clear of fireworks which have been lit but have not gone off.
- Keep animals away from fireworks.
- Look after young children at all times.
- Ensure that you are conversant with first aid for the treatment of burns and eye injuries.
- Make sure you have access to a telephone for use in the event of an emergency.
2. Animal Welfare
The Royal New Zealand SPCA has issued a call for special care to be taken of animals on and around Guy Fawkes Night. The Society has also released a checklist aimed at reducing the harm and fright that animals suffer as a result of fireworks.
At the top of the SPCA’s list is a reminder that fire works should never be let-off close to or around animals.
The Society also recommends that at least one family member should stay home on Guy Fawkes Night to keep pets company and to comfort and reassure them.
Other recommendations for helping pets through Guy Fawkes Night are to drown out the noise of the fireworks with the sound of radios, televisions and stereo systems and to let animals hiding under chairs or in cupboards stay there. Attempts to coax them out will probably upset them further.
Other SPCA recommendations include advising neighbours in advance of a firework display by putting leaflets in letter boxes and, in the case of larger displays, notices in shop windows and local newspapers.
When can you buy fireworks?
So youâ€™re planning your fireworks party: where and when can you buy your fireworks?
Fireworks go on sale to the public on October 27 and can only be sold between that date and November 5, the official Guy Fawkes night. After this date, fireworks sales are illegal.
Fireworks cannot be sold to anyone under 14 years of age. Retailers caught flaunting the restrictions may be liable to a fine up to $500,000 and spend up to three months in jail.
There are strict laws regarding the types of fireworks which can be sold in this country. Every firework coming into New Zealand must be approved by the Chief Inspector of Explosives and Dangerous Goods prior to going on sale.
Retail outlets have strict rules governing the sale of fireworks to the public and they must be sold in approved packaging or under glass. The well-known skyrockets and firecrackers are no longer available, but there is still plenty to choose from.
Popular these days are boxed sets of fireworks available through approved retail outlets. These give the family a good variety of fireworks in a range of prices. Thereâ€™s something for everyone â€“ big and small kids alike â€“ eh dad!
Most importantly, remember, NEVER use or alter fireworks in any way other than that indicated on the label. Not only is this extremely dangerous, it is against the law.
Fireworks fun throughout the Year
While there is a definite time frame within which to purchase your fireworks (November 2 â€“ November 5), you may let your fireworks off anytime throughout the year. So you may wish to purchase your fireworks on or just before November 5 (take advantage of any discounts) and store it away for New Yearâ€™s Eve celebrations or a special event.
Some storage tips:
- Ensure fireworks are kept away from any sources of heat or ignition.
- Ensure fireworks are kept dry.
- Store fireworks in their original packaging.
- Do not store fireworks with any other flammable materials including petrol, oil or paint.
- Keep them stored in a lockable container or cabinet.
Remember, fireworks will not, if stored correctly, spontaneously combust. They do not contain any chemicals which would do this.
Keep safe, keep secure and have some fireworks fun safely throughout the year.
Great Guy Fawkes Website
This site has been developed to provide a general overview of the legend and history behind ‘Bonfire Night’, why and how it is celebrated today and of course, the story behind Guy Fawkes.
Safety Tips from the NZ Fire Service and Police
The best way to stay safe this Guy Fawkes Night is to attend a public display.
During the Guy Fawkes period in 2005, there were over 700 fires, dozens of injuries and many thousands of dollars worth of property destroyed. We can’t have a repeat of 2005.
Think about others: