I’m somewhat ambivalent about Bonfire Night.
Though there are a few people who I wouldn’t mind seeing burnt in effigy, Guy Fawkes isn’t one of them. At college, I had a poster on my wall saying’ Guy Fawkes: the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions.’ Most modern northern European festivals hark back to our pre-Christian heritage, being results of the church’s attempts to hi-jack older ceremonies. As such I enjoy them with a sly smile, and seek out the pagan bits that the god-squad missed. Bonfire Night mainly harks back to the church’s own quaint tradition of painfully executing people who disagreed with them.
On the other hand, you get to blow sh*t up and set fire to large piles of combustible material.
Our village’s much talked-of 5th of November celebrations began with a torchlit parade, where in glorious contravention of health and safety laws, the general public set fire to specially made torches and marched, like a genteel lynch mob, down the hill and to the sports field where a bonfire the size of a house had been constructed. After being entertained by amusingly inept fire-jugglers, we moved on to the ritual immolation of the token terrorist. As the Guy was made by a local primary school he looked less like a threat to democracy and more like a giant panda in an ill-fitting tweed suit.
Finally the moment everyone’s been waiting for. A ragged countdown by the crowd heralds the half-hour long discharge of a retina-searing volume of ordinance, set off to, and frequently drowning out, a reassuringly tacky soundtrack (‘The best firework display music in the world … ever’).
By the time the barrage was over I was half deaf and liberally coated in soot. My neck had seized from staring upwards and every time I closed my eyes I saw starbursts.
Fantastic. We’ll be back again next year.
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