Each year in Great Britain on November 5th we celebrate Bonfire Night. It is seen as a fun celebration on a dark autumn night when we watch fireworks around a bonfire and have special treats with family, friends and neighbours. However, it all started in 1605 when a group of men who were dissatisfied with King James 1 and Parliament plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
They wanted to kill King James and the king’s leaders because they felt betrayed. When Queen Elizabeth 1 took the throne of England she made laws against Roman Catholics and made it illegal to practise Catholicism. Catholics had to practise their religion in secret. There were fines for people who didn’t attend the Protestant church on Sunday or on Holy Days. When King James 1 became King in 1603, Roman Catholics hoped he would reverse the laws passed by Queen Elizabeth 1 but when he didn’t, Guy Fawkes was one of a small group of Catholics who felt that King James 1 and the government was treating Roman Catholics unfairly.
A group of men led by Robert Catesby, plotted to kill King James and blow up the Houses of Parliament. The plot was simple. When Parliament opened for its next session, Catesby and his fellow plotters would blow up everyone inside using gunpowder.
They rented a cellar in the House of Lords and stored barrels of gunpowder there. Guy Fawkes was given the job to keep watch over the barrels of gunpowder and to light the fuse when the time was right. However, one of the plotters felt it was wrong that some innocent people would be killed if the building went up in flames so they sent an anonymous letter which soon fell into the hands of King James. He ordered his guards to search the cellars and there they found Guy Fawkes with the barrels of gunpowder. Guy Fawkes and the other plotters were taken to the Tower of London where they were executed.
In celebration of his survival, King James ordered that the people of England should have a great bonfire on the night of 5th November. This is still commemorated annually in England on 5th November by fireworks and bonfires.
“Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot”
Traditional English Rhyme – 17th Century
Today the Queen only visits Parliament once a year for the State Opening of Parliament but before she does so the Yeomen of the Guard search the cellars. They don’t expect to find anything untoward but it is now a British tradition.
As with all traditions they evolve over time and sometime in the past people made an effigy which they made from stuffing clothes to look like a person to represent Guy Fawkes and it was thrown on the fire.
Certain foods are synonymous with bonfire night like parkin and treacle toffee but we’ve found some great pictures of cupcakes that you may wish to copy, and eat of course.
Children might like to do some art work for this special occasion. Coloured papers make wonderful bonfire pictures and glues and glitters make lovely fireworks.
For some bonfire fun download our bonfire crossword.
Older children would probably like to know the full story and there is a link here that will completely enthrall them.
Gunpowder Plot – Stories from parliament (1 of 2): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YptNONmnXH0
Gunpowder Plot – Stories from parliament (2 of 2): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edhuXbE_nBk
Younger ones should listen to Fireman Sam about keeping safe.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bscpWaa2p8
Wrap up warm and have a lovely time.