Sunday, November 05, 2006

Happy Guy Fawkes Day

London has spent the weekend celebrating Guy Fawkes Night, a commemoration of the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Last night Mrs. Werbenmanjensen hiked up to Parliament Hill, with the booms, cracks and pops of dozens of homegrown fireworks displays all around us, to see the officially sanctioned fireworks from the Ally Pally and from Battersea Park.

Atop Parliament Hill we could see a dozen or more of the backyard fireworks going off, in addition to the official displays, and of course one unofficial display at the top of the hill (from which the above photo was taken). I found it remarkable that ordinary blokes would be setting off fireworks in a public park unmolested, but maybe that's the custom here. Some police were keeping an eye on it, so maybe they planned on moving in for the arrests after it was over.

At one point, I turned to Mrs. W and asked, "Are we celebrating the failure of the plot, or the fact that somebody tried?" She didn't seem to know the answer either, so I put it to an English friend this morning. "I asked my wife the same thing, and she didn't know, and neither do I," was his reply. "I think people just like fireworks."

As I write this, at around 9:45 p.m., Londoners were still expressing their love of fireworks.


Anonymous The Old Man From Scene 24 said...

They're celebrating the failure of the plot to blow up the King and the Parliament.

10:13 PM  
Blogger Smitty Werbenmanjensen said...

That's what I'd supposed, but I just find myself confused when the day is named after the villain, rather than "King James Night" or "Parliament Night." Know what I mean?

10:20 PM  
Blogger pseudonymous in NC said...

If you look at the Lewes Bonfire Societies' site, then you'll get the run-down on pre-1605 tradition, which adapted to include Gunpowder Plot commemorations. They like their bonfires on the south coast. In York, not so much: but that's because Guy Fawkes was one of their own.

I do think it's more fun to have bonfires at this time of year, because it gets dark early enough for the kids to see them without having to be awake at midnight.

As someone raised Papist, I'm ambivalent about it all: the anti-Catholicism of the seventeenth century still makes me chary.

4:51 PM  

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