All posts, Culture and buildings, On leaving home

Come on baby, light my fire – Lewes on Bonfire Night

Exactly this time last year (5 November), instead of enjoying a breezy, warm day in Spain, we were preparing to have our eyes stung with acrid smoke and eardrums battered by a thousand firecrackers.

The Spanish may love their fireworks and setting light to things – Valencia’s Las Fallas being one example (see Hola Yessica’s post about it) – but nothing beats the mayhem of bonfire night in Lewes. Forget your village green firework display, here you descend into a fiery hell.

Lewes is a town in southern England famous for marking the date of the uncovering of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 – the failed assasination of King James I of England by a group of Catholics, which included the famous Guy Fawkes. The event also commemorates the 17 Protestants from the town who were burnt at the stake between 1555 and 1557 during the English Reformation.

In 1606, Parliament passed the ‘Observance of 5th November Act’ which remained in force until 1859. Ever since, with varying degrees of regularity in the early days – celebrations were banned, reintroduced and interest waned – bonfires have played their part.

In the 1820s, groups of ‘Bonfire Boys’ started celebrating with large bonfires – and fireworks. The first two societies, Cliffe and Lewes Borough, were formed in 1853.

Today, the six bonfire societies are joined by visiting groups, marching bands and people hauling barrels of burning tar through the streets. If you’ve left your cigarette lighter at home, you’re in luck.

It ends with huge bonfires on the hills surrounding town and, like Las Fallas, huge effigies are burnt. The Pope doesn’t enjoy the evening, for sure. Each year there are injuries from fire and fireworks.

If your child likes the light on at bedtime and a tinkling, illuminated carousel to help them sleep, it’s probably best to leave them at home.

Below is our short 2012 film and here’s the Lewes Bonfire Celebrations website.

More films here and here.

© con jamón spain

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