USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Guy Fawkes’

Bonfire Night

Informant: Valerie is a 61-year-old, born and raised in Dorking, England. She moved to Pennsylvania at 40, and to San Diego at 45. She still regularly visits England, where all her family still live.

Main Piece: “Back when I lived in England, we would celebrate Bonfire Night every 5th of November. Every Bonfire Night when I was growing up, my family would go out to the center of town and there’d be a big celebration. It was all about remembering Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot and celebrating that he was caught. We’d set off fireworks and burn an effigy of him, and have a big…almost a party, with loads of food. Kids would go around dragging big…scarecrows dressed like Guy Fawkes. It was very important to my mum.”

Background Information about the Performance: The Gunpowder Plot was an attempt by Guy Fawkes at destabilizing the British Government in the 1600s. Bonfire Night celebrates the fact that he was caught before the Plot was executed. For the informant, she remembers this piece because of how important it was to her family at the time. The informant still celebrates Bonfire Night in San Diego by cooking a special meal that night.

Context of Performance: The piece was performed annually on the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot.

Thoughts: Upon further research, I have found that the celebration of Bonfire Night has dwindled significantly since the time the informant lived in England. However, she continues the tradition, although in a much more subdued manner, in the United States.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Guy Fawkes’ Day

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in England and currently lives in Los Angeles. She lives in my hall, and I interviewed her.

Informant: So in 1605, this dude called Guy Fawkes was arrested trying to blow up the house of parliament in London, and it was likeI’m pretty sure the king and all of the important people were there, and he was trying to kill them, but he got caught and that was on the 5th of November. So every year, on the 5th of November, like schools and families and like clubs and stuff in England make a huge bonfire, and then they make like a doll, like a human sized figure of Guy Fawkes, and then they burn him on the bonfire, and there’s like fireworks and like a barbecue and stuff, every year.

Collector: So you celebrate him or him not blowing up the parliament?

Informant: Well, we burn him every year, so we definitely don’t celebrate him. It’s like a celebration of I guess his failure. It’s a very chill day though, we eat burgers and hot dogs and hang around by the bonfire. Like we don’t have a meal with our family. It’s more like the whole community gets together and there’s like fireworks and stuff. There’s a song too.

Collector: A song? What is it?

Informant: It goes like this

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Gunpowder Treason and plot

I see no reason why gunpowder treason

Would ever be forgot

It’s not that big of a deal though, like we don’t sing it around the campfire or anything. It’s just something that people know.

I thought this was particularly interesting because it’s a holiday that revolves around an attempter murder. Albeit the burning of the figure of this murder, but a murder none the less. I think it’s cool how even until today, people remember it, and I think that this might be because the monarchy in England is still in power. I believe that this is not only a fun way for people to celebrate with their family and friends, but also a way to honor their monarchy. It makes me wonder if the holiday began as a way for the monarchy to keep its citizens in line, so that nobody would try to recreate Guy Fawkes’ murder attempts.