Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason,
Should ever be forgot...
5th November 1605. The Gunpowder plot, now celebrated as Bonfire Night, is one of the most well known dates in British History. The Tudor Dynasty gained power by the Usurper Henry VII in 1485 and the final line in succession ended in 1603 with Elizabeth I. Their family sparked change, war and rebellion. Henry VIII, who is probably best remembered for his six wives was the monarch in power when the Break from Rome and Reformation of the Church began. This spiralled England in a struggle between religions: Catholic and Protestant. With England having been a Catholic country for so long, it followed a series of traditions which Protestants wanted to break free from, and during the entirety of the 16th Century they questioned the Pope's authority. The Tudor Dynasty fell from power on March 24th 1603 when James I became monarch because of the death of Elizabeth I with no successor. Foreign relations were always difficult, with monarchs encountering language barriers and having different goals regarding themselves and their countries, when a Peace Treaty with Spain failed in 1604 a group of Catholic men in the now Protestant country decided to take matter's into their own hands and so the Gunpowder plot began. Although they were discouraged by the Catholic Priests who did know of the plan, the plotters managed to secure a cellar below the House of Lords in 1605 and filled in with gunpowder. 36 barrels, to be precise. However, a tip of was received and Guy Fawkes was found in the cellar, all the other organisers had fled.
Bonfire Night has become a tradition, it's something we celebrate every year. Although I knew the history of the Gunpowder plot, I found myself wondering why we still celebrate it 400 years on. It was treason after all. Upon typing 'why do we celebrate' into google it also came up as the first question, so I figured I wasn't the only one who wanted to know. In conclusion to my findings I can summarise that the fireworks represent the gunpowder and the fires were originally lit as a celebration that King James I wasn't killed. In around the 18th Century it became a symbol to burn Guy Fawkes on the Bonfire and we've carried on ever since. This fills me joy, the celebration and tradition that comes from Bonfire night is wonderful, traditions are something to be treasured and shared and I'm glad that communities get together to do so. My village, for example, always has a huge bonfire, with two fireworks displays and a range of burger vans, hot dog stands and donuts stalls. There's also the addition of live music and fair ground rides. You buy a ticket and the money goes towards a local charity. It's how I'm spending tonight.
Although I love the history with my interests focused on the state of our planet: climate change, global warming and species extinction, I couldn't help but wonder what kind of effect Bonfires all over the country have on that and it comes as no surprise, sadly, that they're not the best thing. So here are a few things you can do to minimise your effect on the environment this year:
- Go to a public bonfire display, similar to public transport, more people using one thing means there are less emissions generally. If we all had our own bonfire it would release a lot more damaging chemicals than if we all shared one. I don't for one second think that the atmosphere of a lone bonfire is half as good as a public one.
- Also make sure to check any bonfire you do have for animals. Hedgehogs, are a case I'm sure you've all heard of, they like to take up home in the mound of sticks and wood (which should be dry and untreated to minimise chemical release) and it's devastating to think if you don't check then you could loose a life.
- No matter how you're celebrating bonfire night please use untreated, unpainted and dry wood. It causes so much less harm. I found an article in the Guardian by George Monbiot which sheds more light of why. If you're going to a public bonfire display, drop the organisers an email or find a way of getting in contact, just to help out them and the environment.
Stay safe and have fun. You are able to celebrate and maintain tradition without compromising the ability for future generations to do it, we just have to be aware and prepared.
For a brilliantly written article on an eco-friendly bonfire night: