Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November…


…Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot!

Many of us grew up with this nursery rhyme and Bonfire Night has been celebrated every year on November 5th since 1605. The tradition started the year after Guy Fawkes failed to blow up Parliament and, originally, was meant to celebrate the King’s escape from death. However, over the years, Guy Fawkes has become a hero rather than a villain (it’s been said he is the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions) and Bonfire Night is simply a fun tradition for families and friends to enjoy fireworks, bonfires and food.  Because it falls on a weekend this year, it’s the perfect excuse to enjoy a traditional Guy Fawkes party, either with friends or just family. From making a Guy to cooking the food, you can do it all on a budget!

The Guy

Traditionally, children make an effigy of Guy Fawkes (called a Guy) then sit with it in the streets asking for ‘A Penny for the Guy’. Any money collected is then spent on sweets or fireworks and the Guy is placed on top of the bonfire to burn in the evening.

Unfortunately, due to the dangers associated both with begging and bonfires, this is a tradition that is fading fast in our ever cautious society. However, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t still enjoy making the Guy – kids have great fun – and indeed, many public displays allow the public to add their Guys to their bonfires.

So how do you make a Guy? Find some old clothing that you no longer want, a top and trousers work well and overalls are perfect. Stuff with something flammable like straw or newspaper, avoiding synthetic materials as they can give off bad smelling fumes. For the head, just about anything goes. For the more adventurous you can try making a papier mache head or else make one with a stuffed pillowcase or even a balloon. A marker is perfect for adding features – he doesn’t have to be good-looking! Anything else like hands, feet, hair or hat is extra and kids love coming up with ideas for these. The best bit is that, no matter how he looks, your Guy will cost practically nothing at all.

The Food

Bonfire Night food is comfort food, warming, easy to eat standing round a fire and it nearly always consists of the good old banger in some form or another. Bangers and mash, hot dogs, sausage and chips, if it can be eaten standing up and without cutlery, then it’s perfect bonfire fodder. Of course, the beauty of sausages is that they’re a cheap food and many of the supermarkets including Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s are offering great deals like 2 for 1 on bangers in the lead-up to Bonfire Night.

Other traditional Firework foods include mugs of soup which is usually tomato although there’s no tradition in the flavour, it just seems to be a popular choice. And of course hot chocolate or cocoa (with or without little marshmallows on top) is loved by kids and adults alike. You can also add some cinnamon to apple juice and heat it up for another comforting drink while adults enjoy some warm mulled wine. No matter what you eat, it’s comfort food at it’s best – warming, nourishing and economical!

The Fireworks

Although you can still buy fireworks to set off in your back garden, most councils put on a free display for the public and, to be honest, nothing you buy in the shops is going to come close to the spectacular public displays around the UK. However, there are things to consider if you really want to spend fifty quid on a box of fireworks that may or may not light up the skies (let’s face it, we’ve all been left feeling somewhat deflated by the ‘Rocket’ that launches a mere 6 feet into the sky rather than the 50 feet promised on the box, or the Catherine Wheel that sluggishly spins 2 or 3 times before falling to the floor with a halfhearted pfft of sparks!)

  • Only buy from reputable shops and make sure the box has the British Standard Kitemark BS7114
  • Keep fireworks in a metal box and follow all instructions before lighting.
  • Keep kids well away when lighting fireworks and never go near one that looks like it’s gone out.
  • Check out DirectGov for a list of all precautions to be taken around fireworks. 

Shops selling fireworks have to be licensed to do so and have to keep them locked away. You may find some merchants offering special deals and you could buy online from reputable stores such as FireworksCrazy who operate under strict Trading Standards guidelines.

However, as I said before, the only way to truly save money on fireworks is to attend your local public display where you don’t have to pay a penny. Bring your own hotdogs to munch on while you watch or have them waiting for you when you get back. No matter what you decide to do, keep safe and have fun.

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