Not too long ago, Guy Fawkes Day was a celebration like none other in Australia. With tomorrow marking the 413th anniversary of the infamous failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Starts at 60 takes a trip down memory lane to recall the antics of the exciting tradition.
Celebrations for the special day began the year after the failed plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in Britain between November 4 and 5, 1605. The group of conspirators might have been led by Robert Catesby, but it was Guy Fawkes who went down in history for being taken into custody the night before the attack.
After capturing and convicting Fawkes for treason, November 5 was declared a day of thanksgiving and later named after the very man who became known as a notorious traitor.
For children everywhere, Guy Fawkes Day (also known as cracker night or bonfire night), was one of the most exciting celebrations of the year. The use of fireworks and massive bonfires represented the explosives that were never used in the attempted attack on parliament.
Timber and logs were collected in the weeks leading up to the big night to make sure the bonfire would be as grand as possible. Local shops around town would make sure they were stocked up on every kind of fireworks in the business including Catherine wheels, Roman candles, skyrockets and ball-shooters. Cracker night was a dream come true for excited kids as they stood outside their houses to watch the stunning array of colours and sparks fill the sky.
Neighbourhoods gathered together around the crackling bonfires for the big night and used anything they could to keep fuelling the fire. Often a straw effigy of the man himself, Guy Fawkes, would be made in the weeks prior to the event and ceremoniously tossed into the fire.
While Guy Fawkes Day is still celebrated throughout the UK, Australia stopped celebrating the annual tradition about 30 years ago due to legality issues. Nowadays every state in Australia has banned the personal use of fireworks with the exception of Northern Territory for their own cracker night in July and Tasmania in certain circumstances.
However, nothing has stopped the festivities each year across Britain as fireworks are still legal and readily available to the public. The tradition is only getting bigger, especially in Lewes, in southeastern England, where the largest bonfire night celebrations in Britain is held with thousands of people gathering each year.
While the tradition lives on elsewhere, many Australians are simply left with the vivid memories of lighting fireworks and preparing bonfires for the big night of celebration.