Forgotten the historical reason why many of us accidentally set fire to our sheds on November 5th? Or wondering what the best firework to lose an eye to is? Here’s a handy guide to Bonfire Night for anyone with nothing better to do for the next two minutes.
Bonfire Night – A History Lesson
Back in 1605, some disgruntled and put-upon Catholics decided to stick one almighty middle finger up at the Protestants by blowing up King James I during the State Opening of the Houses of Parliament.
God, who felt a bit torn between the two groups what with them both liking him a lot, tossed a coin to decide the outcome. Poor Guy Fawkes was discovered before he could light the powder keg and send the whole thing sky high.
On being caught, Fawkes demonstrated a spectacular lack of imagination by giving his interrogators the false name of ‘John Johnson’ – presumably because Mickey Mouse hadn’t been invented by then.
Interrogators soon discover his true identity and future teenagers everywhere are spared the humiliation of soliciting money for their Johnson.
To celebrate his escaping being burnt to death, King James I decreed everyone should light bonfires in his honour. Which is a bit like surviving a plane crash and then getting someone to fly a micro-light at your head every year.
Over 400 years later, and Britons continue this proud tradition by setting off colourful licensed bombs without really understanding why.
Fireworks – An Overview
Fireworks were invented because scientists decided people weren’t saying ‘ooooh’ and ‘aaaah’ enough.
They are carefully constructed from a delicate balance of chemicals and are designed to make loud noises, emit bright light and scare the shit out of dogs.
Some you may have heard of are:
Catherine Wheels: Fraught with potential problems. Hammer in too tightly, and it just colourfully singes your fence. Attach too loosely, and you watch in horror as it spins off into next door’s Koi Carp pond. You’ll know when it’s right because it’ll look like a cat’s anus exploding.
Roman Candles: So called because of their ability to sporadically shoot stars out of their cardboard tubing and build really long straight roads.
Sparklers: Brilliant for teaching kids what joined up writing looks like and what second degree burns feel like. Also an excellent way of determining which of your friendship group is a cheapskate by observing who can’t write their name in full before theirs goes out.
Rockets: According to government statistics, every year one person blows their own hand off by launching a rocket out of their coat sleeve. We need to find this person and we need to have our video cameras on us when we do.
Fountains: The soft-core porn of the fireworks world; all spectacle and no banging.
Chinese Crackers: Banned in the late 90’s due to their erratic and dangerous nature. Not to be confused with Prawn Crackers, which will merely fizzle gently when exposed to a lighter.
Bonfire Night Food
The best thing about bonfire night that you can feast on any number of gourmet offerings worthy of a seventeenth century Catholic-bashing King.
Roasted Chestnuts: Sound like a great idea. Aren’t. The same effect can be achieved by jamming massive red hot splinters under your nails for twenty minutes and then eating a very small amount of powdered nothingness.
Toffee Apples: Sound like a great idea. Aren’t. Save money by opening your mouth as wide as you can until your jaw locks, and then shattering a glass of really cheap apple juice into it.
Toasted Marshmallows: Apparently there is a window of time when a marshmallow exposed to a naked flame is actually edible. But it is so infinitesimally small, physicists have yet to be able to measure it.
Hot Dogs from a Van: These are not just lovingly prepared parcels of delicious smoked pork and delicate spices. These are what gets jet-washed from the already plucked-clean carcass of a pig and packaged up in a tube of skin, some stale white bread and a sprinkling of listeria.
So there you have it. Bonfire Night for beginners. Now go and singe something before it’s all over for another year.
[photo credit: Duncan Rawlinson – Duncan.co – @thelastminute July 4th Fireworks Boldt Castle via photopin (license); photo credit: Christiaan Triebert IMG_7326 via photopin (license); photo credit: apocaknits sparklers via photopin (license)]