Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I see of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Every fifth of November bonfires are lit all around England and fireworks are set off to commemorate the day in 1605 when Guy Fawkes failed to blow up the House of Lords. My most memorable Bonfire Night took place in Roundhay Park, Leeds, in the north of England. There has never been a grander bonfire; it was constructed of entire trees and flamed impossibly high into the night sky, accompanied by a magnificent display of fireworks.

Bonfire Night (or Guy Fawkes Night) is a quintessentially British festival, so I wasn’t expecting to celebrate it over here on the west coast of the US, but a friend of mine let me in on a little secret. If you’re in Seattle on the fifth of November, head down to Golden Gardens and join in as a group of Seattle-based Brits, their spouses, friends, neighbours and random strangers celebrate their very own Bonfire Night on the beach. If you’re not sure where to go, look for shadowy figures silhouetted against a delicious red glow.

bonfire night guy fawkes seattle usa us washington america gunpowder treason plot november 5thThere were no fireworks as they are illegal in the City of Seattle; possession can earn you a hefty $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail! Instead, the revelers at Golden Gardens this year made do with bonfires, hand-held sparklers and several effigies of poor old Guy Fawkes which were tossed into the flames.

bonfire night guy fawkes effigy effigies fire glow november fifth gunpowder treason plot

Two guys wait in the glow of the flames for their turn on the bonfire

guy fawkes burning bonfire november fifth night seattle golden gardens

Man down, man down!

guy fawkes bonfire burning night november fifth gunpowder treason plot seattle golden gardens

Wait, you’ve got the wrong guy

There was a surprisingly large turnout; people of all ages from tots to seniors showed up with firewood to burn, tasty treats to share around the dancing fires, and sparklers for everyone.

sparklers bonfire lighting old-fashioned

Lighting sparklers the old-fashioned way; one person lights their sparkler from the bonfire, then everyone else touches their sparkler to the lit one.

Next time you find yourself in Seattle on November 5th, take a wander down to Golden Gardens in search of gunpowder, treason and plot.

guy fawkes bonfire night gunpowder treason plot fifth november golden gardens seattle

About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
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56 Responses to Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

  1. Gorgeous post Ailsa – and that flame …. what a shot 🙂

    • ailsapm says:

      Thanks Wanderlust, it was all very atmospheric! 🙂

      • Shame about the fireworks though don’t you think? Bonfire night was never the same in Oz after they banned the sale of fireworks – sparklers around a giant tree stump out in the vast blackness of the bush just didn’t seem to cut it! But then again, your Seattle ex-pats have gone to town on their guys … 🙂

  2. Jo Fredric says:

    We have Guy Fawkes night in New Zealand, but they don’t in Australia so we missed out this year. Thanks for the photos for reminding me!

    • ailsapm says:

      Wow, I didn’t realise they did Guy Fawkes night in NZ, Jo. I just learned something new. 🙂

      • Jo Fredric says:

        It’s the only time of the year when you can buy fireworks, so it’s a fairly popular event. Not so many bonfires or effigies though, and I’m not sure how many people could tell you who Guy Fawkes was or why there are bonfires and fireworks, but yes, we celebrate it 🙂

      • Yes, Ailsa, here in Wellington there was a beautiful public display over the harbour on Monday night. Some people still buy their own fireworks to let off at home, but I think the public display is so much more spectacular, and I can see most of it from the upper floor of my house.

        Jo, Australia has a fireworks night somewhere round July or August I think. Mid-winter anyway, outside of the bushfire season.

  3. yizhivika says:

    Great photos! The event is still very alive and well in England, with literally hundreds of firework displays taking place in early November, often on the nearest weekend to the 5th, if not on the evening itself :).

  4. pommepal says:

    Oh that brought back memories of my childhood back in the 1940’s and 50’s. Neighbourhoods would collect all burnable rubbish for weeks in advance, competeing for the biggest bonfire and in the days before political correctness, health and safety rules and litigation gone crazy, little boys would sneak around in the dark letting off crackers behind little girls. For days both before and after the 5th it was free for all with the fireworks, penny bangers, catherine wheels that always seemed to escape and whizz off in all directions, sky rockets with the bottle holding them falling over at the last minute as you lit the blue paper. It seemed harmless fun but I’m sure there must’ve been a lot of burns and accidents, and of course the animals hated it…

    • ailsapm says:

      Yes, it’s a scary time for non-humans, that’s for sure. I used to keep my doggie indoors and turn the telly up loud so he wouldn’t hear fireworks when they were going off. It worked every time. 🙂

  5. bulldogsturf says:

    Looks like it was still fun without all the loud bangs that seem to dominate fireworks today…

  6. Travelbunny says:

    We have a big thing about Bonfire night in Sussex. In fact we have bonfire season where about 9 local villages take it in turn to host a bonfire night. We dress up, have a procession with drummers and of course a bonfire and fireworks. I love it! I’m glad to see the ex-pats are carrying on the tradition overseas.

    • ailsapm says:

      Ooh that sounds fun, Travelbunny, a procession with drummers as well as the usual bonfire? I may have to spend a Bonfire Night in Sussex sometime. 🙂

  7. poppytump says:

    Looks like and sounds like a great family community night out Ailsa !
    Oh we love to get all nostalgic don’t we here .. I remember my Dad nailing the Catherine Wheels onto the fence posts .. rockets in milk bottles …terryfying thinking about it all now 🙂

  8. strawberryquicksand says:

    It sounds like fun- but i’m amazed you actually had Guy Fawkses to throw on the bonfire!!! 🙂

    • ailsapm says:

      There were four of them, strawberry, I was surprised too. I have to say, we never did the Guy part of it, it seemed just a little too macabre. We were all about the bonfire and the sparklers. 🙂

  9. bonfire night was celebrated on the beach at Yalikavak near Bodrum, Turkey, last night too, by a group of enthusiastic Brits, in aid of charity.

  10. Jeff Sinon says:

    Sounds like a lot of fun!

  11. Great photos as usual!

    I’ve always liked bonfire night… It’s nicely ambiguous: never quite sure whether it’s commemorating the defeat of the plot, or its almost-success…

    • ailsapm says:

      I’ve always loved that ambiguity too, Vlad, although I remain firmly non-partisan. Any excuse for a bonfire and sparklers is alright by me!

  12. starryiskies says:

    i love all these shots – very moody! looks like quite a party even though the whole burning of effigies is a bit morbid hehe 🙂

    • ailsapm says:

      Yes, starryiskies, I’d never actually seen a guy burn before, we just stuck with bonfires and sparklers and goodies like bonfire toffee and Yorkshire parkin. Yum!

  13. Angelia Sims says:

    This is what I love about the blogging community – learning traditions outside of our own country. Love the shadowy glows and the burn em’ dummies of Guy Fawke. Lol.

    • ailsapm says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Angelia. I introduced a few of my US friends to the spectacle of Bonfire Night by bringing them with me, they had a great time!

  14. I saw somewhere the other day that modern day celebrations are throwing modern day figures onto the fire. This year it was Lance Armstrong.

  15. Cool. I think there are pockets where this is celebrated in the US. Didn’t know Seattle was one – great fun

  16. Wow I never knew about this. Thanks.

  17. gourmandchic says:

    I love bonfires. We do a lot of that on beaches in SoCal but this looks amazingly fun. Love the history part as well.

  18. viveka says:

    Lived 20 years in UK .. bonfire night – the best in UK are in Lewis – by Brighton. People come from all over the country to watch it – and people living in Lewis … escape somewhere else.
    Thanks for you post here … great memories and freezing cold too most bonfire nights.

    • siskinbob says:

      I agree. Lewes (with an E) is the best. The torchlit parades by the local bonfire societies are something else. I used to live in Lewes and was able to view from a first floor vantage point. It can get scary down in the streets.

      • viveka says:

        I can .. image it – have friends living in Lewes .. and they always took off to Bath over bonfire.

      • ailsapm says:

        Interesting, viveka and siskinbob, I took a day trip to Lewes once and it was a lovely little place, but I never knew it was THE place for bonfire night. I love the idea of torch-lit parades and bonfire societies. How exciting. I may have to spend a Bonfire Night in Lewes, next time I’m in the UK.

  19. siskinbob says:

    Thanks for sharing. Sounds like some ex-pats getting some home sickness out of their system. Nice atmospheric pix.

    • ailsapm says:

      It was a lot of fun, siskinbob. There were tons of little kiddies there, it was great to see their parents keeping Bonfire Night alive overseas. 🙂

  20. I’d completely forgotten about Guy Fawkes Day until I read your post. It’s one of those things we learned about in middle school (believe it or not) and then never heard about again.

  21. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I know that fireworks can be incredible dangerous but surely they could be purchased with some sort of licence!

  22. restlessjo says:

    That first photo is so intriguing, Ailsa. Great work on here.

  23. That’s so fantastic! I never knew that they celebrated in Seattle either! Well, if I ever find myself up there at that time of year I’ll definitely look for it – so nice to know! =D

    And definitely great photos 🙂

  24. Inge says:

    Every year especially on bonfire night then the air will full of smoke in UK. I remember last year I was going out in my friend’s car and somebody nearly hit us with her car due to the smoke in the air. But even so I think that girl could see our car on the road. Perhaps she was drunk.

    And yesterday my cats were terrified by the explosion of the fireworks from our neighbour. They scared to go out and just hiding under my bed.

  25. petit4chocolatier says:

    Excellent photos!

  26. earthstills says:

    Dramatic images, proof that even without the spectacular bangs and showering lights, you can still celebrate and share the occasion afterwards with all of us!

  27. sarahinguangzhou says:

    Bonfire night has been eclipsed by Halloween these days and it’s a shame really. Maybe there are more merchandising opportunities to Halloween and that’s why. Nice photos!

  28. Su Leslie says:

    I love fireworks, and really like that NZ still “celebrates” Guy Fawkes, though as Jo says, I doubt many people could tell you what it’s all about. When I lived in England, I briefly lived in an old manor house which had once been owned by Sir Everard Digby – one of the Gunpowder Plotters. The house was called Gayhurst, was in beautiful rural Buckinghamshire and had been divided into flats. It’s the address on my son’s birth certificate, and we think it’s quite cool he shares an address with a figure from Guy Fawkes (as well as quite a few other notable Brits who seem to be connected with the place).

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