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Dates for assembly

This festival began as an annual Protestant celebration when Catholic extremists (including Guy Fawkes) failed to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

Outline script for assembly leaders

Would it be fun to watch someone take out a pound;20 note and set fire to it? Or would it be more fun to spend the money on a box of 18 small fireworks? For the same money, you could buy a new CD and a DVD. Or at least one item of smart clothing. Or it could be used to feed an African child (orphaned by Aids) for three and a half months.

Spending money on fireworks is one way we celebrate the Fifth of November.

Another way is to have a bonfire. Bonfires were originally called bone-fires. They were used to cremate corpses after plagues, and to burn live heretics to death. Since 1530, the word has been used to mean any large fire lit as a form of celebration or simply for amusement. For example, during the time of Henry VIII, the Church of England encouraged people to hold annual bonfires to celebrate the fact that England was no longer under the authority of the Pope.

In the time of Elizabeth I, bonfires were lit each year to celebrate the anniversary of her accession to the throne (November 17).

On her death, James I became king. A group of conspirators (who wanted England to become Catholic again) plotted to kill James and the entire government. Their plan involved rolling 36 barrels of gunpowder into the cellars of the Houses of Parliament, and waiting for the king to arrive.

Thanks to a tip-off, guards discovered them. They were arrested, tortured and executed. One of them was called Guido (or Guy) Fawkes. The next year (1606), bonfires were lit on November 5 to celebrate the failure of their plot. Out of hatred for Catholics, stuffed effigies of the Pope were burned on the top. It was not until 1806 (when Protestant-Catholic relations were improving) that people started burning "Guys" instead.


Discuss: are fireworks a waste of money? Should we celebrate Guy Fawkes?

* Explore how fireworks feature in Hindu and Sikh Divali celebrations and in Chinese festivities.

* Further information about the history of Bonfire Night, associated legends and firework safety can be found at

* Suggestions for related craft activities:

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