The Ultimate Guide to Bonfire Night

We know 2020 hasn’t been the greatest year on record… but we’re heading towards the end, and here at BoroughBox we’re determined to make the most of it!

It’s November, and that means bonfires and fireworks… or at least, that's what it normally means. This week, we talk about why we celebrate this English festival and how you can make the most of a locked-down Bonfire Night.

Why do we celebrate Bonfire Night?

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

In 1605, on the 26th October, Lord Mounteagle sat down to eat his dinner. His servant handed him a letter from a passing stranger on the road, telling him to stay away from the State Opening of Parliament on November 5th. The letter was unsigned. It didn’t give any details.

Perhaps Mounteagle finished his dinner. Perhaps he couldn’t stomach it. Regardless, we know this: he took the letter to the hunchbacked Secretary of State, Robert Cecil.

The authorities acted quickly. Too quickly, some have said.

The evening before the State Opening of Parliament, Guy Fawkes – a radical Catholic whose treasonous intent was already well-known to the authorities – was found in a cellar beneath the House of Lords, skulking over enough explosives to turn Parliament into the face of the moon: 36 barrels of gunpowder.

Image courtesy of The Independent

He was opposed to the new king’s oppression of those loyal to Rome. He was part of a ring of Catholic conspirators intent on killing the protestant king and encouraging the King of Spain to invade the British Isles and place a Catholic in his place.

He was not the lead conspirator; he was just some guy whose previous experience as a soldier singled him out as the best man for the job.

King James is known for a number of things: he was a patron of the arts, and he was the first King of England and Scotland. He also wrote books on the subject of witchcraft. One of them was called Daemonologie, a treatise concerning the hunting of witches. And he did not like Catholics: often times, he equated Catholicism to devil-worship.

Image courtesy of Vox

King James I signed a torture warrant for Guy Fawkes, who gave up the names of those in his conspiracy. Many of them fled; most of them were captured. Those that were captured were hung, drawn and quartered.

And on the streets of London, on the 5th of November, the people celebrated the failure of this Catholic coup d’etat by building bonfires.

The next year, King James went hard against Catholics. Wealthy lords connected to the conspirators were arrested, fined or executed. Catholics were forbidden to vote, become lawyers or serve in the military. And they all had to take an oath of allegiance that would ultimately denounce their entire belief-system.

Some say it was all a good excuse, by King James, to destroy his religious opponents.

And to this day, every year on November 5th, children make effigies of this Catholic conspirator, Guy Fawkes – who we must remember was just some guy – and walk about the town asking passersby for money in aid of their creations. They say:

‘Penny for the Guy’.

At night, people build bonfires and burn these Guys while fireworks explode in the darkness – symbols of all that gunpowder that had failed to kill the king.

Now, some people burn ‘the Guy’ in sympathy with his plot to blow up Parliament and destroy a tyrant-king who enjoyed burning witches and likened Catholics to devil-worshippers; others burn ‘the Guy’ because they think he was a terrorist who was willing to kill hundreds of innocent people in the name of killing his enemy, the king.

In the end, this is why.

Poor Pooches!

Image courtesy of Deadlinenews

It's easy to have a blast on Bonfire Night, but for your pets, it can be a frightening night full of anxiety and fear. Our furry friends are none-too-keen on the loud bangs and flashes that fireworks emit. While there are many precautions pet-owners can take to reduce stress, like feeding them a high-carb meal, having the TV on, or creating a cosy den, none are foolproof.

That is, until a young student from South Shields shared pictures of her two pups wearing homemade ‘calming jackets’. What are they? Socks! The clever teen cuts the ends of her socks off and fits the comfy band around her dogs’ heads to protect them from loud sounds and also make them warm and snuggly!

She’s been doing this for years (why haven’t we thought of this?) and it totally works! Send us pics of your cosy canines!

Bonfire Recipes

We’ve scoured ancient tomes and the not-so-ancient world wide web to find the cosiest Bonfire Night recipes for you to try!

Catherine Wheel Sausages

Image courtesy of Good Housekeeping

Combine fireworks with sausages and what do you get? A deliciously decadent spiral sausage! Certain to impress, this handy little trick is a great way to bring the Bonfire Night vibe inside. Try with sauces from Rubies in the Rubble and Wonderchup to really score some points. Recipe here.

Homemade Toffee Apples

What is Bonfire Night without toffee apples?! Nothing beats the succulent crunch as you take a bite out of these sweet treats. All you’ll need are apples, sugar, vinegar and golden syrup! And it only takes 20 minutes… can’t get much sweeter than that! Recipe here.

Catherine Wheel Toad in the Hole

Image courtesy of BBC Good Food

Perfect for a cold autumn evening, this combination of sausage and Yorkshire pudding in a gorgeous coiled design is sure to be a family hit. A classic British favourite, but with a twist (haha). Pair with a potato salad lovingly smothered with Dressini tahini dressing and you’ll be on your way to culinary masterdom. Recipe here.

Bonfire Craft

This year, we all have to take our Bonfire Night celebrations inside because of lockdown restrictions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our favourite 5th of November traditions from the safety of our own homes! Check out what we’ve found for the best Bonfire-Night-themed craft ideas for kids!

Pop-up Fireworks

Image courtesy of Kids Craft Room

Fireworks can be so exciting for children can’t they? All those wonderful colours, sounds and smells! This year, while we watch from our windows or gardens, you can hold the fireworks in the palm of your hand with this quick and easy pop-up firework! Check it out here.

Homemade Sparklers

Image courtesy of

Homemade sparklers? Sounds dangerous… we can assure you… it isn’t. These sparklers are safe and free from fire so no fear of burning! Make them with just cellophane, tin foil and jumbo straws! Follow the method here.

Firework Prints

Image courtesy of Mas and Pas

A super simple way to bring the fireworks inside and entertain the kids! You can turn any loo roll tube into a firework paintbrush. Simply dip into coloured paint and voila! Your very own fireworks display (at a bargain price). Recipe here.

So there you have it - the history of Bonfire Night, tasty treats to celebrate the big night with a bang, and even homemade craft ideas to keep the kids entertained! We hope you enjoy the festivities - if you have any craft tips or recipes we’ve missed, let us know on social - @boroughbox.