Friday, November 5, 2010

Bonfire Night - Thwarting An Early Terrorist Threat

Wrapped up in woollen scarves, hats and gloves we would stand excitedly in the dark waiting for the lighting of the bonfire; for the moment when the flames would spring in to life and the wood would start to crackle, for the moment that we could feel the heat on our cold, red cheeks. The guy perched at the top of the fire would eventually fall and burn, the effort of making the figure disappearing literally in a puff of smoke.

Once the bonfire was in full flame, we would turn our excitement to the fireworks which would be next to start. In the meantime we warmed ourselves and filled our tummies with soup, a jacket potato or a hot dog or hamburger.

Then the firework display would start and the crowd would "ooh" and "aahhhh" in unison as Catherine Wheels spun, spider fireworks trailed their orange legs across the dark, starry sky and Roman Candles sent shooting stars heaven bound. We would wave our sparklers around, writing our names in light. The bangs, whistles, screeches and crackles echoed across each other as the firework show came to its finale.

Bonfire night every 5th November sticks with me, the date holding a feast of childhood memories like a t box of treasures I can open every year on this day. Of course, since I moved to the Netherlands participating in Bonfire night has become harder and I have only been in the UK to celebrate 5th November twice since 2000. As my children grow up this is a track record I aim to change so that they can learn and take part in a little piece of British history and culture. For Bonfire night is a British thing - yes, I have had lots of people back home saying to me over the years "Don't they celebrate bonfire night in Holland then?" No they don't. Of course they don't - Guy Fawkes made no attempt to blow up the Dutch parliament did he?

But he did have a cunning plan to get rid of the protestant monarch of the time by blowing up Parliament and King James I with it in 1605. The aim was to replace the head of state with a catholic one. Luckily for King James I the gunpowder plot was discovered (the anti-terrorist unit being on full alert back then too by all accounts) and the plotters were arrested and swiftly executed. End of Guy Fawkes and his friends.

On 5th November, 1605 the first 'thanksgiving' was celebrated and marked with the ringing of church bells and the lighting of bonfires. Hence, why the British, over 400 years later, still light bonfires on 5th November and put an effigy (the guy, named after Guy Fawkes) on top of the fire. The fireworks represent the foiled gunpowder plot - that and it's pretty.......

If you live in the Netherlands and want to experience Bonfire Night get yourself over to Watersportcentrum, Sloterplas,Christoffel Plantijngracht 4, 1065 DA Amsterdam at 16.00 on Sunday 7th November, where the British Society is once more organising its Guy Fawkes Bonfire event.

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