Lisa's week

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  • Lisa's week: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot

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Lisa's week: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot

I’ve commented before that I’ve been here too long to be too homesick and have learnt to live without many of the specifics of life in the UK. But there is one celebration that I really do miss at this time of year and one that there’s no way to replicate – I can’t really build a huge fire outside and let off thousands of fireworks without some serious trouble with the authorities!

5th November is Guy Fawkes’ Night or Bonfire Night in the UK and all across the country, fires, fireworks and outdoor parties will be happening everywhere from informal occasions in back gardens to larger, organised events in public parks.

This night celebrates the failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I on 5th November 1605. Guy Fawkes, who was a member of the Gun Powder Plot – a group of Catholics who wished to kill Protestant King James and replace him with a Catholic king - was discovered in the cellars under the House of Lords surrounded by barrels of gunpowder. To celebrate the survival of the king, bonfires were lit all across London and 5th November became an official day of thanksgiving for the failure of the plot early in 1606.

Over the years, this day has had a varied popularity, and has undergone many political, religious and cultural changes along the way. You can find out all about it online – there’s a lot of history involved.

At some point it became popular to create an effigy to throw onto the bonfire and later Guy Fawkes himself was the figure usually created out of old clothes and stuffed with newspaper – somewhat gruesome but something I also did as a child! I’m not sure that many children make a Guy these days but back then, you could take it from door to door and ask for “a penny for the Guy” to earn a little money for fireworks or the bonfire party! I’m sure this is now considered politically incorrect and no doubt, concerns around safety make public events much more popular than when I was young, but I remember those parties very fondly. The dark, cold evening, the heat of the fire, the beauty of the fireworks and of course, hot-dogs and hot chocolate all made this a fun event.

So, I’ll be giving a thought to my family back in the UK enjoying their own Bonfire Night and maybe one year, I’ll plan to be back there to celebrate this special night.

Fun additional fact: the masks used by movements such as “Anonymous” are actually of Guy Fawkes’ face, which just goes to show that sometimes traitors can become heroes over time.


What is Lisa's week?

"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"


Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday

Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?

Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?

Episode 4: The sound of London

Episode 5: Not just a last resort

Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise

Episode 7: Title talk

Episode 8: The Union Jack

Episode 9: Why Thursday?

Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?

Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!

Episode 13: Up in the Highlands

Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends

Episode 15: Pie in the sky 

Episode 16: Through the tunnel

Episode 17: Keep left!

Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise

Episode 19: How do you say that?

Episode 20: Back to School!

Episode 21: Sweet cravings

Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?

Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"

Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)

Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?

Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.

Episode 27: Things that go bump in the night!