As an international student, when I first arrived in the UK, I wasn’t sure what bonfire night was or why people celebrated it. If you felt the same last week when people began lighting fires and setting off fireworks, then take a look at this blog!
Bonfire Night (sometimes called Fireworks Night or Guy Fawkes Night) is a national festival celebrated across all of England on the 5th of November. If you have seen the movie ‘V for Vendetta’ you may be a little familiar with the story, as this is loosely based on the story of Guy Fawkes.
The story behind this holiday begins on 5th November 1605, when a man named Guy Fawkes plotted to blow up the king in the Houses of Parliament in London. He was arrested while smuggling huge amounts of explosives underneath the Houses of Parliament. Soon thereafter, people began lighting bonfires in a way of giving thanks for the fact that King James I had survived the terrorist attempt. This unofficial celebration was then made official by introducing the ‘Observance of 5th November Act’. Within a few years, this day became a widely celebrated English tradition and it is still going on to this day.
This day was also known widely as the gunpowder treason day and it inspired various pieces of art in the media, like this song:
“Remember, Remember the 5th of November,
The gunpowder, treason and plot,
I know of no reason,
Why the gunpowder treason,
Shall ever be forgot”
Now, if you have never observed this holiday before, here is what you should expect – fireworks, a warm fire, yummy food and lots of fun! In Leeds, there are a number of parks that have events to celebrate the day. Places you can go include Roundhay Park (over 70,000 people head to this event each year!), Woodhouse Moor which is near Leeds Beckett’s two campuses and Springhead Park. There are carnivals, rides, fireworks and huge bonfires for you to gather around with your friends. The fireworks are beautiful to look at.
You may be wondering, like I was, why bother celebrating something which happened 400 years ago? Well, as university students (especially those that are new to Leeds) we should take every opportunity we can to immerse ourselves in the local culture. What better way to do that than participating in the holiday celebrations? It’s a fun, free night out in town, complete with laughter, warmth, beautiful pictures and fireworks. What more could we possibly want?