Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes and Firework Displays

Will you be celebrating bonfire night this November 5th evening?  That’s likely only if you live in the United kingdom, New Zealand or Newfoundland.  Some call it Guy Fawkes Night and that seems to be catching people’s attention more this year.  Apparently Guy Fawkes has become the face of the Occupy protests around the world.

The Gunpowder Plot

Guy Fawkes is a historical name in Britain since he plotted with twelve other conspirators to blow up Parliament with explosives and assassinate King James the First.  The plan was to install a Catholic monarch in the botched “gunpower plot” in 1605.

Authorities found out about it and caught Guy Fawkes guarding barrels of gunpowder under the Houses of Parliament.  He was tried as a traitor and the king’s narrow escape is now celebrated every year on November 5th with fireworks and the burning of effigies known as “guys” across the country.

Guy Fawkes as Activist

This year Guy Fawkes Day has a distinctly political flavor, as protesters inspired by the folk hero marched on Parliament — though with somewhat different intentions than the 17th-century activist.

Stylized Guy Fawkes plastic masks — with a clownish, sinister mustachioed smile and features loosely based on drawings of Fawkes — have been worn by hundreds of protesters from the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement from New York to London. And before that, members of the international rogue collective of “hackivists” known as Anonymous had worn the now instantly recognizable masks during protests against the Church of Scientology.

The design of the masks came from the comic book and movie V for Vendetta, which features a violent, anarchist antihero who fashions himself a modern day Guy Fawkes and rebels against a fictional fascist government.

Bonfire Night

Many more people will of course celebrate the typical Bonfire Night.

Preparations for Bonfire Night celebrations include making a dummy of Guy Fawkes, which is called “the Guy”. Some children even keep up an old tradition of walking in the streets, carrying “the Guy” they have just made, and beg passersby for “a penny for the Guy.” The kids use the money to buy fireworks for the evening festivities.

On the night itself, Guy is placed on top of the bonfire, which is then set alight; and fireworks displays fill the sky.

Rather ironically, some of these firework displays are the work of a descendant of the man who caught Guy Fawkes trying to blow up Parliament.  She is a top fireworks display expert and is one of the country’s top pyrotechnicians.  Ellie Turner works for the Manchester-based fireworks company Walk The Plank, which has organised thousands of major firework displays.

A Penny For The Old Guy

Some may remember that phrase as a subtitle for the poem by T. S. Eliot called The Hollow Men.

Perhaps the most remembered part of this is its final verse:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

I remember my mathematics teacher, Max Leason, was particularly fond of this and quoted it often.

However life does not need to end that way.  Indeed some have proposed that people’s mortal remains could be fired into space or perhaps more reasonably be part of a beautiful fireworks display.  A number of companies such as Angels Flight will arrange this for you.

A final Image of Your Loved One You Will Cherish Forever.

As the music plays, the family looks skyward over the beautiful ocean waters, watching the fireworks carry their loved one’s cremains into the air. Bursting over the ocean in exquisite patterns and colors, the cremains are scattered into the sea.

What a way to go.  No whimper there. It is certainly the way cool seniors like Betty White will make their exit.

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