Guy Fawkes (Bonfire) Night – Why I Will Always Remember, Remember.

Queuing, apologising and initiating conversations about the weather are things that we Brits do exceptionally well.

We’re also famed for not directly saying what we mean and burning an effigy of a man on a bonfire once a year. The latter of which is considered a ‘family event’, where children are often encouraged to go door-to-door requesting ‘a penny for the Guy’ (a small donation which serves to fund some bangers to throw on the fire). As I was growing up, Bonfire Night was an event as anticipated as Christmas. This was partly because children were allowed to stay up into (what felt like) the small hours but mainly because a bonfire serves as a beacon for drawing out neighbours to stand, in comfort, side-by-side staring into a fire.

It’s almost primitive and innate, that feeling of human connection as flames flicker and embers ignite. Our brain makes connections that speak to our caveman wiring which, in turn, silences the soul and makes you give thanks for the good around you. Cheeks warm, heart full, stomach happily digesting the aforementioned charcoaled sausage – for me, the 5th of November is so much more substantial than the famous ‘burning of the Guy’.

[bctt tweet=”As I was growing up, Bonfire Night was an event as anticipated as Christmas. ” username=”ParentVoiceMag”]

[bctt tweet=”It’s almost primitive and innate, that feeling of human connection as flames flicker and embers ignite.” username=”ParentVoiceMag”]

[bctt tweet=”The 5th of November is so much more substantial than the famous ‘burning of the Guy’.” username=”ParentVoiceMag”]

Guy Fawkes Night
Photo Courtesy: Victoria Halliden

 

[bctt tweet=”Why would the rest of the world celebrate a failed attempt to blow-up the Houses of Parliament?” username=”ParentVoiceMag”]

[bctt tweet=”I feel a little sadness that Guy Fawkes Night will not be engrained into my children’s own childhood. ” username=”ParentVoiceMag”]

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Yet, the funny thing is, until I moved to Belgium a mere decade ago – I had no idea that this whole event (something that forms such a substantial part of my youth) was actually exclusively reserved for us Brits. Of course, with an adult mind, it all makes perfect sense (why would the rest of the world celebrate a failed attempt to blow-up the Houses of Parliament?) and yet, I still feel a little sadness that Guy Fawkes Night will not be engrained into my children’s own childhood which will be played out here in Flanders. Of course, I’ll try to feed them a spoonful of my own nostalgia – continuing our yearly tradition of a bonfire in our own back garden and throwing a pile of rags into the flames. I’ll work to evoke a squeal of delight while hot flames heat small faces and cold breaths leave traces. However, I’ll have to accept that it’s up to my children to decide what memories shape their childhood and without the reinforcement of similar messages from school and local friends this one might just fall into the hilarious “remember when you and dad insisted on throwing a scarecrow into a fire every year”.

Guy Fawkes Bonfire
Photo Courtesy: Victoria Halliden

[bctt tweet=”I’ll have to accept that it’s up to my children to decide what memories shape their childhood.” username=”ParentVoiceMag”]

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Parenting is just that after all, the clinging on to traditions which you felt shaped you for the greater good, imparting them on to your children like a present you hope they’ll appreciate and ploughing forward with new rituals together as a family unit.[/perfectpullquote]

Actually correction, this memory is very much being planted by me since my husband is Irish and doesn’t really care much for the tradition. He is, however, a man and wholeheartedly embraces the opportunity to make a fire and, at least, clear the garden of all the autumn foliage. The desire to make Bonfire Night ‘a thing’ is all mine and, thankfully, he supports me much in the same way I recognise his mission to teach our children some Irish words – despite hating having to speak it himself as a child. Parenting is just that after all, the clinging on to traditions which you felt shaped you for the greater good, imparting them on to your children like a present you hope they’ll appreciate and ploughing forward with new rituals together as a family unit.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The desire to make Bonfire Night ‘a thing’ is all mine and, thankfully, he supports me much in the same way I recognise his mission to teach our children some Irish words.[/perfectpullquote]

For me as a child, the 5th of November was nothing more than fun. True, at school (even as a Scot) we were taught never to forget. Our brainwashing was apparent in a little rhyme which I remember to this day:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason, and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason

Should ever be forgot…”. [/perfectpullquote]

What are we asked to remember? The arrest of Guy Fawkes who was caught on the 5th of November with enough gunpowder to blow up Parliament House? And yet, while the actions speak of a political nature (given the location of choice) the motives were actually far more religious since Fawkes was part of the anti-Protestant establishment who sought to replace the Protestant monarchy of England with a Catholic one.

However, as a child, my only resonating feeling about the whole event is one of relief. After all, this was packaged as a celebration of the fact that a ‘villain’ had been caught for attempting to commit a rebellious act against society. In fact, as a child, every time I stood in front of a bonfire I was buoyed with idea that bad guys don’t really exist – or if they do, they are certainly caught and punished.

[bctt tweet=”Whenever I stood before a Guy Fawkes bonfire, I was buoyed with idea that bad guys don’t exist. ” username=”ParentVoiceMag”]

[bctt tweet=”Think of it as every child having the ability to throw their worst fears into the flames.” username=”ParentVoiceMag”]

And so – back to the act of throwing the Guy on the fire (since that seems to the one thing that doesn’t cross the channel well). Think of that like every child having the ability to gather up their worst fears, the monsters under the bed, the shadows that dance on the walls and throw them into the flames. The very act of ‘burning the Guy’ is a reminder of law and order prevailing, buoyed up by firework displays and a thick joyous atmosphere that insists there can be no bad in the world. And while I don’t plan to raise my children continually compartmentalising acts, or indeed people, as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ I am happy to spark (no pun intended) their interest in a little act that helps them banish the Bogeyman Man. At least for one night.

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Victoria is a Scot residing in a small Belgian village with her husband, two trilingual children, and her long-suffering feline. She is the founder of Flying Free Media, a content, and marketing agency which works to give brands a voice. Victoria has work published in Glamour Magazine and counts Unilever and Target as her agency’s clients. Her musings on raising small humans can be found on any good parenting site (least the ones who tell the truth) whilst her take on fashion comes from many years serving as a Fashion Buyer for the industry’s biggest brands. When Victoria isn’t working she’s persistently failing in her quest to master Nederlands or off ‘finding herself’ on a 42.2km run. Follow her here and here.

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