Bonfire Night – Life in the UK – Online English Lessons

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The Gunpowder Plot

In London, England, on the 5th November 1605, a group of Catholic extremists planned to kill the Protestant King James I and his Protestant government by blowing up the Houses of Parliament.

However, a search of the cellars below Parliament found Guy Fawkes ready to set light to 36 barrels of gunpowder smuggled in by Fawkes and his co-conspirators.

Guy Fawkes was arrested and then tortured for four days in the Tower of London. He and his co-conspirators were all sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered (the penalty for treason).

Guy Fawkes escaped this gruesome punishment by leaping to his death from the gallows.

King James declared that bonfires should be lit every 5th November to celebrate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot.

Bonfire Night

Bonfire night is celebrated on the 5th November in the UK, as well as in some former British colonies such as South Africa and New Zealand, and parts of the Caribbean.

In the UK, people light huge bonfires and set off fireworks. The fireworks represent the blowing up of the Houses of Parliament planned by Guy Fawkes.

Effigies of Guy Fawkes (the Guy) are burned on top of the bonfires. The Guy is a model of a man made out of old clothes stuffed with straw or more old clothes.

Traditionally, children would walk the streets with their Guy, asking for a “penny for the guy” for buying fireworks. This tradition is not as common as it used to be: perhaps because it’s no longer legal for children to buy fireworks in the UK.

Traditional Bonfire Night foods in the UK

Traditional Bonfire Night foods include toffee apples, potatoes wrapped in foil and baked in the fire, roast chestnuts, sausages, marshmallows cooked over the flames, and Parkin cake – a lovely sticky mixture of oatmeal, syrup and ginger.

Here’s a recipe for homemade toffee apples.

Bonfire Night video from Learn English British Council

Will you be going to any bonfire night events?

Penny for the Guy photo credit: Spiritual Warrior via photopin cc

Toffee apples photo credit: pixelthing via photopin cc