The changing face of Guy Fawkes' Night

There was a time when scary masks were made or bought to decorate the 'penny for the Guy' in the run-up to Bonfire Night.
A Guy Fawkes bonfire in 1986.A Guy Fawkes bonfire in 1986.
A Guy Fawkes bonfire in 1986.

These days, the Guy Fawkes effigy, made from old clothing and stuffed with newspaper, straw or anything else you could get hold of to bulk out his body, is no more, and those scary masks are now associated with another annual event, Halloween.

It’s funny how the two traditions have swapped places with one another. When I was a lad, Halloween was very much a precursor to November 5, a warm-up to the main event, when us kids saved up, with help from the Guy, to buy as many boxes of fireworks as possible.

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We celebrated Halloween, of course, but in the dark days of Autumn, all those years ago, it was bonfire night that really “sparked” the imagination.

In the run-up to November 5, the telly was full of adverts, urging kids to buy this or that brand of fireworks.

Who can forget the slogan that we used to sing, namely: “light up the skies with Standard Fireworks?”

It was very much an anthem to the time of year when bands of children ganged together to collect as much wood and junk as possible in order to make their own bonfire.

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Once collected and assembled, it was then guarded around the clock so that other gangs didn’t steal any of it – or worst still, set it alight.

The lighting of the bonfire itself was very much a highlight of November 5, and, after doing so, most of us would go home to await a family firework display in the back garden.

I seem to remember that most of us enjoyed the first box full but then how many more rockets and Catherine Wheels can you cheer at in one night?

Our family finished the evening off with bangers, not the noisy explosive types, but sausages, grilled in the oven and taken outside to be eaten in the cold.

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Today, it would seem that people prefer attending organised firework displays, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

However, you will be spending bonfire night, make sure you do so safely