Gruesome British Holiday Tradition

November is right around the corner and now that I have been living here in America for 2 and a half months, I have tried to learn some of the many customs and traditions. My roommate is from Minnesota and she has been teaching me about Thanksgiving over the past while as I have been bombarding her with questions about this exclusive American holiday. For me, a European/Brit/Scot, Thanksgiving really didn’t mean a whole lot. My only knowledge of it was from the sitcom “Friends”. Turkey and pumpkin spiced things. That was my whole understanding of it.

After our conversation about Thanksgiving she asked me if there were any holidays that I was going to miss back home whilst I’m still here in Lincoln. That holiday for me is Guy Fawkes Night. Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night is a holiday only celebrated in the United Kingdom, annually on November 5th in the evening. This holiday marks the day of the “Gunpowder Plot”, celebrating the failed plan by Guy Fawkes to blow up the British Parliament in 1605. He hid 2 tons of gunpowder in the basement of the parliament building but was caught by the guards right before he lit the match.

Traditionally, what we all do back home in the UK is make big town/city bonfires and make “guys” i.e. make a fake person/body out of newspaper or clothes or stuffing. This body-shaped figure is to represent Guy Fawkes. In my home town of Carnoustie, we have a torchlight parade around the town and light the bonfire at the beach. We then throw the guy onto the bonfire and then have a fireworks show whilst drinking hot chocolate. To Americans or anyone who doesn’t celebrate Guy Fawkes Night will think it is a barbaric and very medieval holiday, but it is a harmless UK custom that has been celebrated since 1605 so it is a big deal back home. There are national bonfires in the capital and city bonfires too that commemorate the failure of his attempt to blow up the parliament.

I know this is a very unique and strange holiday based on a gruesome public execution but that is British history at its finest and a tradition I am going it miss for the first time in 18years. Although I will get to experience my first ever Thanksgiving this year with my roommate in Minnesota which I am really looking forward to. It was just interesting to me how different the holidays and customs are in each country. Some people think that the culture and customs in the US is somewhat similar to the UK but really they are very very different.

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