Guy Fawkes Night

Kathryn Funderburg University of Aberdeen, Scotland


November 9, 2015

Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.”

Last Thursday was November the fifth, which in America would mean nothing. In Scotland (and Great Britain in general) however it was Guy Fawkes Night. I have to admit that at first I wasn’t quite sure what the celebration is about. I knew the festivities revolve around bonfires and fireworks, which made me link it in my mind with the American 4th of July celebration. After a bit of research I discovered that event dates back to the 5th of November, 1605, when, as a part of the Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes placed explosives under the House of Lords in an attempt to murder King James I. Rather than celebrating revolutionary action, as the 4th of July does, Guy Fawkes Night is about rejoicing over the failure of the assassination of the king. The inclusion of bonfires and fireworks in Guy Fawkes Night relates back to the fires that were lit across London in response to the news that King James I was still alive.

The University of Aberdeen’s International Centre hosted a get together for those who hadn’t experienced the holiday before with some snacks and great hot chocolate. Afterwards, a friend and I headed down to the beach, where there is a fireworks show every year. Although I usually don’t find Scottish weather all that unpleasant, the walk to the sea was a bit rough. A cold wind was blowing, and a fine mist of rain settled like dew on my face and clothes. We reached the beach with plenty of time to spare, so we decided to get dinner. There was a conveniently located Pizza Hut, which I consider to be a good dinner at home, but this was especially pleasant. I eat out occasionally, mostly when I am travelling, but I hadn’t been to a sit down chain yet. Having a piece of pizza might seem like a silly thing to really appreciate, but being able to enjoy something familiar while away from home is always nice. The water was self-serve so I even got to control how much ice I got (a lot), plus it was crushed (AKA the best, think Sonic ice). I never knew how much I was going to miss icy drinks!

We finished dinner right in time and joined the crowds of people waiting along the shore for the fireworks to begin. Most of the time when I see fireworks they are not by the sea, so it was really cool to watch the brilliant explosions of light and the dark waves rolling in at the same time. The wind would whip the smoke out over the water, making way for another burst of color. It was magical, as fireworks always are, and it was even better to experience them in a new context from what I usually do. Celebrating a different culture’s holiday is a wonderful way to connect with people and places, and I am very glad that I had the opportunity to do so while in Scotland.


Scotland Semester