Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night, is a staple of the autumn season in Britain. Named for one of the conspirators of the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in which a group of Roman Catholics attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament, the Fifth of November is celebrated with fireworks, bonfires and traditional British food.
It’s kind of like our version of the Fourth of July. But instead of waving flags and drinking beer, we burn effigies and eat bangers and mash. I know it sounds weird, but truly, it is one of the things I miss most about living in England, and I think the rest of the world should get in on the action.
Here’s how to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night regardless of whether or not you are standing on the soil of Mother England.
Food & Drink
For some reason sausages are a really big deal at this time of year. Make a warm and wonderful dish like bangers & mash, toad in the hole, or if you just want an appetizer, try sausage rolls. Pair with Heinz baked beans, onions or peas. If you’re more into one-pot meals, try Cottage or Shepherd’s Pie*, chili or a casserole (extra points for incorporating fall flavors such as this Pumpkin & Ricotta Pasta Casserole).
*FYI, Cottage Pie is made with beef, Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb.
For dessert, you can eat up those leftover caramel apples from Halloween, or make a traditional treat such as bonfire toffee or parkin, a kind of ginger cake from Northern England. (For those of you who are not in the U.K., I often find treacle and golden syrup in the international aisle of grocery stores, but you can also buy them online.)
As a school child, Guy Fawkes Night meant crafting my very own little effigy to be burned on the bonfire later that night. (Doesn’t that say everything about how morbid British culture can be?) During the twentieth century, some people made effigies or “Guys” to represent contemporary political figures they disliked. If that feels too aggressive for you, try writing out a list of things you’re worried about and burning that instead.
Since moving to the U.S., I’ve had to live without neighborhood firework displays every November. However, my fellow ex-pat friends and I brought Guy Fawkes Night to America a couple of years ago with handheld sparklers and it was a huge success.
If you want to keep it simple, wrap up warm in your most adorable hat, scarf and gloves combo and go for a wintery walk outside with your friends, family or dog.
Get creative with a playlist of firework themed-songs (Katy Perry’s “Firework,” Drake’s “Fireworks,” Taylor Swift’s “Sparks Fly,” Plain White T’s “Fireworks,” etc.)—which can maybe be recycled from Fourth of July—or enjoy your favorite British music, whether that’s The Beatles or One Direction.
If you’re looking to read or watch something Guy Fawkes-related, look no further than “V For Vendetta.” The comic, and the movie adaptation, were inspired by the Gunpowder Plot. Another option is the 2004 BBC miniseries “Gunpowder, Treason & Plot,” which stars Robert Carlyle and Michael Fassbender. Or, you know, just watch any kind of BBC and call it a day.
Children most often learn about Guy Fawkes through the “Remember, remember” chant. If you want to really embrace tradition, read it out with your friends around the bonfire (extra Pimm’s for whoever can pull off the most convincing British accent):
The fifth of November,
The gunpowder, treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
The rest of the verse can be found here.
Are you celebrating Guy Fawkes Night this year? Tweet us @LitDarling!
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