Bonfire Night is the weirdest night of the year and these chaos traditions prove it
Yes that is a flaming barrel
When you look at it from an outsider’s perspective, Bonfire Night (aka Guy Fawkes Night aka Fireworks Night) is one of the most unhinged traditions Britain has. We all gather round a humungous inferno to celebrate the night, four centuries ago, when a conspirator attempted to blow up Parliament and assassinate James I of England— to no success.
And, tbh, since 1605, the celebrations we’ve come up with to make the 5 November have only gotten stranger. So, to make the occasion that baffles the rest of the world, here’s a round-up of UK traditions which prove Bonfire Night is the strangest night of the year:
In Edenbridge they basically have one goal: Be as controversial as possible. So, their bonfire celebrations always include humungous effigies of well-known, and controversial, figures. Last year’s celebrations included this one of Liz Truss and for 2023 they’ve decided to light up Sadiq Khan because of his Ultra Low Emission Zone policies, which was decided by public vote. Previous years have seen Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump go up in flames.
Ottery St Mary’s tar barrels
Just outside Exeter at the Devon town of Ottery St Mary, 30kg barrels are soaked in tar in the weeks leading up to Bonfire Night. And, when the celebration rolls around, hundreds of people line the streets (no barriers) to watch people from the village – men, women and children – run through the town with flaming barrels on their backs in a chaotic relay. Normal x
Lewes’ notoriously chaotic parade
Perhaps the event that gives the most horror film energy of any Bonfire Night celebration in the UK is in Lewes where they carry actual burning crosses through the streets while dressed as smugglers, Native Americans and English Civil War soldiers. Hmm. Like Edenbridge, they also like a topical effigy and have previously burnt Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak and Vladimir Putin.
Skinningrove’s arts and crafts
Terrifying if you look out of your window without knowing what’s going on but actually quite wholesome in practise is Skinningrove in North Yorkshire’s arts and crafts based Guy Fawkes celebrations. People would create humungous sculptures made of wood to burn – previously there’ve been giant lobsters, pigeons, fishing boats and set them alight. But, sadly, the event was cancelled this year after simply becoming “too popular” for the town’s infrastructure to handle. We are such a strange little country.
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Featured image credit via Finbarr Webster/Shutterstock