"Please to remember,
the 5th of November,
Gunpowder, Treason, & Plot.
I see no reason,
Why Gunpowder Treason,
Should ever be forgot."
As a child, growing up in New Zealand, we used to mark the occasion of 5th of November. It became known as Fireworks night, or Cracker night, or, if you are of Gom's vintage & heritage, Bonfire Night.
Our Grandmother, who was English, told us the story of Guy Fawkes. This next passage is taken from Wikipedia.
'Guy Fawkes (13 April 1570 – 31 January 1606), was a member of a group of English Roman Catholics who attempted to carry out the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill King James I of England, to destroy Protestant rule by killing the Protestant aristocracy, on 5 November 1605.'
Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night) is an annual celebration on the evening of the 5th of November. It celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of the 5th of November 1605 in which a number of Roman Catholic conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to blow up the Palace of Westminster.
"It is primarily marked in the United Kingdom, but also in former British colonies including New Zealand, parts of Canada, and parts of the British Caribbean. Bonfire Night was also common in Australia until the 1980s, but it was held on the Queen's Birthday long weekend in June.
Festivities are centred around the use of fireworks and the lighting of bonfires."
Our Grandmother told us that when she was a child living in England, the children would build a huge bonfire, & would make effigies of Guy Fawkes- hence the word guy, meaning a figure of ridicule or fun- and the children who lived in towns & cities would run about the streets calling for a 'penny for the Guy.'
As many of us in New Zealand were descended from the British Isles, Inhabitants, we continued with the tradition. I never built a guy or went door to door. Rural centres didn't bother with that tradition. Well, not in my northern Island little town. But Gom tells me they did, as children, & would plan their carts, & guys for weeks in advance. They would all get together & have a huge bonfire, which was lit once darkness fell- which could be quite late in the night, the further South you lived.
Purchased 'crackers' & fireworks would be lit, & set off. Rows of small Chinese crackers known as 'bangers' would be thrown at each other, & it was deemed to be all good fun. In my childhood we never attended large bonfires, but usually our Uncle would construct a bonfire, with our assistance, & our mother would find money to buy a few crackers or rockets, & other slightly 'exotic' fireworks, which would be carefully set off by the adults present.
I remember being rather frightened of the fireworks, & heeded all warnings to steer clear. Boys on the other hand, tended to love to play with the fireworks, & would set them off well before the November 5th date. Often with terrible consequences. Eyes were lost, some children lost limbs digits, or suffered hideous burns.
A lonely woman campaigned to have Bonfire night severely curtailed, & succeeded in getting sales of fireworks restricted. I had thought her name was Beverly Pentridge, but I can find no reference to her name on Google, & nothing in connection with her campaign to have restriction enforced. New Zealand still has the date recognized though I would doubt many children know the origin of the occasion today.
Because of the fire danger here in Australia, we dont have Bonfire night. There is a celebration, usually a public display only, on 4th July. I wont make any facetious remarks about politics here. Private fires are now banned because of fire danger, as are privat fireworks displays.
Happy Birthday, Andrew, whereever you are.
Joni Mitchell, The Last Time I Saw Richard