17th-century Bonfire Night traditions grow throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and internationally


Bonfires will be lit around Newfoundland and Labrador on Friday evening, marking a tradition that dates back to November 5, 1605, when Englishman Guy Fawkes was arrested – then executed – for his role in an unsuccessful attempt to do so. blow up the London House of Lords. .

Nowadays, the province may be the only one in Canada when it comes to organized Guy Fawkes Night celebrations, but there are people trying to revive it.

In many communities on the island, bonfires are organized, although Newfoundlanders no longer burn the effigies of Guy Fawkes, because the bloody origins of the observance and its political (pro-monarchist) and religious connotations (anti-Catholic) have faded over time and the event is largely a community gathering.

This year, some have also implemented COVID-19 protocols, including Portugal Cove-St. that of Philippe.

In 2019, a large number of community members gathered to watch the community bonfire and share food and drink on November 5 at Portugal Cove-St. Philips. This year there will be fewer people with physical distancing requirements in place. (Submitted by Nicole Clark)

Nicole Clark, the city’s director of recreation and community services, said at past events people like to get as close to the fire as possible.

“The kids run around and play with all of their peers a bit. It’s just a really fun night for people to be outside,” she said.

This year, the city’s public health precautions include requiring pre-registration, limiting participants to domestic bubbles, and physical distancing. There will also be no food or drink available.

The partnership with the firefighters makes the annual bonfire night at Portugal Cove-St. Philips possible, said Nicole Clark. (Submitted by Nicole Clark)

Clark said she hopes people can come together again next year and the city doesn’t need to limit attendance through registration.

Cartwright brings back the tradition

In Labrador, the tradition is also strong.

This year, North West River is returning to its bonfire roots by offering an award for the best Guy Fawkes effigy to burn.

A coastal community, Cartwright, will have a bonfire for the first time in years.

It’s a tradition that volunteer bonfire organizer Wanda Cabot grew up with.

The bonfire at Portugal Cove-St. Philips shines brightly every year at Guy Fawkes Night. Now, members of the Cartwright community want to bring the tradition back to the coastal town. (Submitted by Nicole Clark)

“As a kid, of course, we were so happy to come together and so excited for it,” Cabot said.

The group received support and money from the city council.

“It will be fun to get together with family and community and have marshmallows, smoked sausage and fireworks,” Cabot said.

British tradition in progress with fireworks

The tradition also thrives throughout England, although its observance has varied over the centuries since the gunpowder plot, as the assassination attempt was known.

One of the most popular events takes place in Creeting St. Mary, a small village of about 700 residents.

They welcome hundreds of visitors during Guy Fawkes Night, which includes a large fireworks display.

Guy Fawkes Night celebrations were canceled in 2020, but Creeting St. Mary hopes to safely bring people together for a night of fireworks on November 5, 2021. (SRC)

The Creeting St. Mary event began in the 1970s with a number of individual exhibits, but these wreaked havoc on the local fire department, and the village decided an event was easier. to control.

These days they also have food, a local bar serving mulled wine, fire engines for the kids, and a supervised area for the kids.

“It’s really cool, really nice events like these where we can catch up with people then and we’ll meet up. So, yeah, we’re really looking forward to it,” said Caroline Chipato, one of the volunteers who organizes the event. ‘display.

Every year, fireworks like these blaze over Creeting St. Mary in South East England to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. (John Minchillo / The Associated Press)

Rhode Island gives a modern twist to a historic event

The United States may not seem like a common place for a British festival, but the idea was appealing enough to a Rhode Island playwright who was looking for a way to bring people together in the fall.

Caswell Cooke is the Executive Director of the City of Westerly Misquamicut Business Association.

In 1997, the association was looking for a fall event, and Cooke decided to write a humorous, historically inaccurate play similar to Monty Python’s skits, based on the Guy Fawkes trial.

“Fast forward 24 years later, and we’ve got this kind of full-fledged production with probably over 40 people in the cast, and around 500 people showing up each year,” Cooke said. “It’s a little silly, but people seem to like it.”

New Zealand could end tradition of Indigenous celebrations

As fires and fireworks blaze in Canada and Britain, they could stop in New Zealand. Towns and villages across the country are moving away from colonial tradition to celebrate the Maori New Year – Matariki – in July instead.

“Palmerston North is the last city to host a Guy Fawkes Night. So not only is it the last Guy Fawkes of all time, but I don’t think any other city in New Zealand is putting on a Guy Fawkes show. “said Ian Roberts, a pyrotechnician. with the Kairanga Lions Club.

Roberts grew up with Guy Fawkes Night being a big event, with kids pushing a Guy Fawkes effigy into a wheelbarrow asking for “a dime for the guy” and more. Even though it could be their last Guy Fawkes night, Roberts said, the club can’t wait to turn on more blinding lights in the future, just in July instead.

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