Americans fire them off on July 4th to commiserate their independence. The French light the fuse to celebrate their revolution. The Chinese get them out for their New Year shindig. And Mexicans let off fireworks to celebrate Independence Day, Mothers Day, Getting Divorced Day, Monday, Tuesday, Every Other Day, and ‘Still Got Some Fireworks Left Over From Yesterday’ day. During my stint as an honorary Mexican, I joined in. I had a great Blowing Stuff Up day. I miss Mexican fireworks displays. If you’re going to have fun with gunpowder, then do it properly.
In the UK we don’t have an Independence Day. Getting shot of the Romans can’t really count, and besides the people now known as the English, Scots and Welsh didn’t exist back then. Gloating over our double triumph over Germany in the 20th century is just so out of fashion these days. And if we celebrated over our victories against the French, we’d not have enough days in the year. Nor have we a Revolution day. True, we did once chop off a king’s head and declare ourselves a republic.
But it lasted barely a blink of the eye, and we put the child of the aforementioned beheaded monarch back on the throne. And did nasty things with the corpse of the person responsible. He should just be grateful he was dead by the time they decided to exact justice. Bring hung, drawn and quartered can’t have been a pleasant end. Don’t click that last link if you get queasy easy!
So what do the British get excited enough about to send a few rockets and whizz bangs skywards? Well. For killing a handful of Catholics, and banishing the Roman faith from these shores. Every November 5th we celebrate Guy Fawkes night. Which, if properly done, involves kids making a clothed straw mannequin, collecting pennies for him from adults, and then tossing him on a fire. It might all sound a bit bigoted. Violent. Unsavoury. But still, it’s ever so English. Yes, I did tease Paola. No, I didn’t throw her onto a bonfire. A minor singeing with a cigarette lighter sufficed. Just to keep the tradition alive.
For anyone who is genuinely concerned about this dastardly festival and the way us Brits behave, then fear not. November 5th is these days, as often as not, referred to as simply Fireworks Night. It’s as much about seeing off the Papal Posse as Christmas is about Baby Jesus. It’s all about gathering on a cold November evening, eating hotdogs and hamburgers, and watching an annual firework display just for the heck of it. Here’s a brief look at the end of the display I attended.