Okay, so the photograph doesn’t show a bonfire. Just shows I didn’t plan this before *last* Bonfire Night!
Thursday 5th November: Bonfire Night in the
UK. I’m hesitant about trying to
describe this seasonal event to anyone unfamiliar with the concept because
having once tried to explain it to two New York shop assistants, I’ve become
extremely aware of what a crazy celebration it is: we light bonfires and set
off fireworks to commemorate the foiling of a 1605 plot by some Catholic men to
blow up the Protestant Houses of Parliament.
Sometimes we even burn an effigy of the plot’s ringleader, Guy Fawkes.
It’s a strange tradition; pretty gruesome and distasteful
when you think about it in the context of twenty-first century terrorism. It also seems to be on the wane somewhat,
pushed out by an increasing emphasis on Hallowe’en. Yet part of me still hankers after a good
Bonfire Night get-together (this year I’m happily attending two, one on Friday
and one on Saturday – like other festivals that fall on weekdays, it gets stretched
to the nearest weekend). I suspect that
its continuation over the years, and the reason that people still enjoy it, is
less to do with the political background and more because it fulfils some of
our deepest needs in the same way that Hallowe’en does (for more on that, see here). It’s an excuse, a prompt, to spend time with
friends and family. Little traditions
associated with the fire-and-fireworks element (largely food related: jacket
potatoes, toffee apples, cinder toffee) support an atmosphere of warmth,
conviviality and ritual. We remember
these nights fondly from when we were children and want to share that sense of
joy and wonder with our own children too.
There is something quite magical about the occasion. You huddle up in coats and scarves and
gloves, trying to keep warm through liquor or a loved one, and ‘Ooo!’ and ‘Aah!’
at the fireworks. You write your name
mid-air with a sparkler and watch as that word, those letters so integral to
your identity, evaporate without a trace.
You stand beside the bonfire, chatting merrily to a friend, then find
yourself gazing at the flames, transported through memories of all the times
you’ve stood there before, perhaps in a different place, but still simply staring
at the fire.
There’s something so mesmerising about the way it licks and
curls, rages and burns. Fires draw us
closer, attracts us nearer, but also keep us away, fearful of their fierce
power. We relate to them on a primeval
level, as our ancient ancestors must have done when their very survival
depended upon them, yet we live lives so far removed from them as a
source. Nowadays we are as likely to
encounter fire in negative ways, such as when they tear through our homes or
land, than we are the positive – the gathering together in a small circle,
sharing its light and heat.
Where would you like to start a fire in your life? Where could you use the power of its flames?
Maybe you crave the communion of bringing those closest to
you in a coven around the hearth.
Maybe you need to set alight your passion, to strike a match
and let it take hold.
Maybe you need a bonfire to burn some detritus in your
psychic garden, letting it drift in plumes of smoke up to the sky and
Fire has the power and the potential to help us secure
whatever it is that we need most in our lives.
And if you can work it into a fire-fireworks-food combination, then even
Happy Bonfire Night to you all x
Please do share your reflections on this week’s theme,
including any pictures or thoughts about Bonfire Night specifically or fire in
general, either via the A
Life Of One’s Own Facebook page or using the hashtag #fourthquarter2015 on
Instagram and/or Twitter.