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MTM – Bonfire Night

on November 9, 2009
Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

We had our muffin tin on Friday to celebrate Bonfire Night. Which was actually on Thursday, but never mind. Bonfire Night is when the English, and presumably the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish as well, remember the attempted blowing up of Parliament in 1605. (Story below) Here is our tin:

We have fire-coloured tins containing mung bean sprouts (no reason for these), Yorkshire parkin and custard, marmite on toast “guys” with a chocolate penny, sparklers and cinnamon stars for fireworks. The meaning of these becomes clearer once you know what bonfire night is about!

The brief story is that James the first and his government were very repressive towards Catholics. (And I do mean very). And so some Catholics got rather tired of this and decided that a new government was needed, and they filled a cellar under the Houses of Parliament with gunpowder in barrels, and coal and wood. And they intended to blow it all up at a time when Parliament would be in session on November the 5th. But someone tipped off one of the MPs and they were discovered. Guy Fawkes was the person there at the time and so he was tortured for the names of his friends, which he refused to give. Eventually the conspirators, or at least some of them, were caught and sentenced to an unpleasant death, and King James ordered bonfires to be lit in the streets to celebrate that Parliament (and himself) had been saved. Incidentally, this is the same King James as he of the KJV. Not a very nice person, although he was slightly gentler towards the Catholics in later life.

You might wonder why anyone nowadays would celebrate such an unpleasant happening – an attempted act of terrorism foiled by an equally unpleasant government – and the answer is because it’s traditional. Nowadays everyone has fireworks (for the gunpowder) and a bonfire on Bonfire Night, and pretty much everyone, at least of my age, knows the rhyme above. Children used to make a “Guy” out of old clothes and trundle him round the streets calling out “a penny for the guy” so people would give them some money to buy fireworks. I imagine they may still do this in some places but probably not most. That’s where your word guy meaning a man in general comes from, by the way. 🙂 And parkin is traditionally eaten on bonfire night too, at least in the North.

But I told Froglet the story so we could talk about how when people are cruel to others, sooner or later the others will turn around and do something unpleasant back (in this case I mean James being almost Inquisitional towards the Catholics and them responding by trying to blow him up).


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