Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night

If you’re ever in the UK on the evening of 5 November, you might wonder why you can hear fireworks. Bonfire Night is celebrated all over the country, but what is it about? Find out about the history of this well-loved event in this article.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.


Bonfire Night can be a hard celebration to explain. It’s also sometimes called Guy Fawkes Night – but who was Guy Fawkes and what’s it all about? Well, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up London’s Houses of Parliament in 1605 because he wanted to kill King James I. So British people celebrate that night, 5 November, with bonfire parties, including huge bonfires in public parks, and firework displays.

But isn’t it strange to celebrate a plot to kill the king?

Well, yes, it would be. But if you know more about the history of Bonfire Night and the Gunpowder Plot, its traditions make more sense. You see, the first Bonfire Night, on 5 November 1606, wasn’t exactly a celebration. It was a warning: ‘This is what happens if you commit treason.’

Who was Guy Fawkes?

Guy Fawkes was a soldier and he was not the only person involved in the plot to blow up Parliament. He made his plan with a group of 12 English Catholic gentlemen. The leader was Sir Robert Catesby. As a soldier, Fawkes was in charge of the gunpowder. The men rented a room underneath Parliament and filled 36 barrels with gunpowder – probably about 2,500 kilograms. Fawkes stayed to blow up the barrels and then escape. But someone sent a letter to Lord Monteagle, a Catholic, to tell him not to go to Parliament that day. In this way, the plot was discovered, and Guy Fawkes was caught before he could carry it out.

All the members of the plot were either killed or arrested and then killed in public. Parliament ordered a national day to give thanks for the safety of the king on 5 November. People had to go to church and they celebrated with a big bonfire. By the 1650s, the celebration included fireworks and later a ‘guy’ – a man made of straw and old clothes and burned on the bonfire.

Why was there a plot?

Guy Fawkes and the other members of the plot didn’t like the way Protestant James I (and Queen Elizabeth I before him) treated Catholics like them. At that time, Catholics couldn’t have their own churches. They had to practise their religion in secret, and it was very dangerous if they were caught. The Gunpowder Plot was not the first Catholic plan to try to kill the king, but it was the biggest. Afterwards, many people were suspicious of Catholics, even as late as the 18th and 19th centuries. This was very unfair, as most Catholics were peaceful and were also shocked by the plots.

Bonfire Night today

The celebrations have remained mostly the same for hundreds of years, although people nowadays don’t go to church as part of the day. Most towns and villages organise public displays where you can stand by huge bonfires and watch the fireworks as you eat a toffee apple or a hot snack. Many children learn this poem about Bonfire Night at school, and they look forward to a special evening out:

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

So if you’re ever in the UK on 5 November, you’ll now know what all the noise is about!

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Submitted by LuisFrancisco on Wed, 29/11/2023 - 19:32


I love staring at fireworks, especially colourful ones. In Mexico, there are two great days to stare at fireworks. The Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on 16 September and we organise parades, fireworks, and a feast, one of the most popular traditions on this day is "the cry", when the president yells the same speech every year and rings a big bell after that, you can see fireworks at night.
The second one is quite similar to the bonfire tradition, at the end of the year we make a guy made with straw and fireworks, which symbolizes the "old year" and all the negative experiences that we had during the year, at the end, the elder person (the guy made with fireworks) is burning, the elder person must be burnt at 12:00 am on 1 January.

Submitted by jyoti Chaudhary on Sun, 08/05/2022 - 13:09


I celebrated bonfire on new years day and my family enjoy a bonfire in the last of dec month and we danced together in a family group. on the other hand, it can be dangerous and harm

Submitted by Thinthinmyoe on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 08:38

The fireworks are usually used in the Independence Day of our country as well as New year night
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Submitted by danisep on Tue, 15/12/2020 - 15:47

New Year’s Eve, Christmas night and sometimes when celebrate the virgin maria day. here in Colombia people also use to fill a man figure with old clothes and fireworks and burn it, that man could be a president or figure that annoy people, like a farewell for all bad things that happened the last year here is call "año viejo" I think that maybe we copy that form the bonfire British celebration.

Submitted by cittàutopica on Thu, 26/11/2020 - 12:22

The fireworks are used largely in my country, specifically during the patron saint holidays, in all the cities, towns and villages. But there are other local festival also, which originate from the pagan myths; in these there's the custom of burning some mound of faggots for bringing about the good outcome of the harwest.
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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Wed, 03/06/2020 - 22:26

Yes. I has. It celebrated NYSC, Christmas eve and so on,

Submitted by Alejandra Maria on Thu, 16/04/2020 - 03:49

In my country the people use fireworks for New Year specially and several parties like married celebrations , Companies organize meetings with their employees, customers. Last year was an important campain in order to forbide the noisy fireworks. It has two reasons animals like dogs put nervous for them, also the people who have autismo desease suffer , don´t feel good with those noises.

Submitted by parisaach on Tue, 12/11/2019 - 05:34

In my country there is some small firework for Arabic ceremonies, but the greatest occasion that people of my country celebrate with bonfire and firework is "ChaharShanbeSoori" which means Wednesday party, and happen at the last Wednesday of year. It is one of old Persian customs. in this night people make a bonfire and jump over it. As they jump over the fire they sing "your redness for me and my yellowness for you". They eat nut and do lots of interesting things to celebrate this day. This is the original form of this tradition, Recently some people make firework too. Many people still celebrate this night as before. They buy nuts and fruits, make bonfire and dance, but there are also many people who like to make a firework and some people buy some noisy stuff they throw them and make thrilling sound.This is really annoying . It seems some people enjoy destroy this old tradition.
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Submitted by Rafaela1 on Tue, 05/11/2019 - 13:14

Yes, fireworks in summer is particularlly celebrated to repose souls.
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Submitted by iso on Sat, 16/03/2019 - 14:16

This article is awesome.Bonfire Night has curious history and that is long time ago. In my country has firework in summer. we see beautiful firework with a lot of flock or crowed.but We don't celebrate at that time. We just enjoy firework at summer night.