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It's Bonfire Night

Novembre 2009
Novembre è tempo di falò in Inghilterra. Si ricorda Guy Fawkes, uno dei più antichi terroristi della storia. Ma anche Papa Paolo V, Bin Laden e George Bush.

di John Rigg

File audio:

The Guy Fawkes mask
The Guy Fawkes mask
Effigy of Pope Paul V
Effigy of Pope Paul V

Speaker: Justin Ratcliffe (Standard British accent)

This month British children sing “Remember! Remember! The Fifth of November!” Why is this date important? It’s Guy Fawkes Night or simply Bonfire Night: a celebration of the capture of Guy Fawkes.
Fawkes was a Catholic rebel and he attempted to dynamite the House of Lords and kill King James I in 1605.


The most spectacular Bonfire Night celebrations take place in Lewes, Sussex, in south-east England. In most places around Britain people burn an effigy or “guy” that represents Guy Fawkes. In Lewes they burn an effigy of Pope Paul V! There are six Bonfire Societies in the town. They parade through the streets dressed as smugglers and pioneers with burning torches. They carry effigies of Pope Paul V, Guy Fawkes and modern-day figures like Bin Laden and George Bush, to six enormous bonfires.


Bonfire night is celebrated throughout Britain. Children make a “guy,” then carry it around their town and ask people for money to buy fireworks or sweets: “A penny for the guy!” they shout. On Bonfire Night they put the guy on top of the bonfire and burn it, while fireworks explode in the sky.  
Why is November 5th so important in Lewes? In 1553 Mary became Queen of England. She wanted to restore the Catholic Church to England. Lewes people still commemorate the 17 Protestant martyrs Queen Mary burnt at the stake because they refused to renounce the Protestant faith.


Bonfire Night was originally an angry anti-Catholic protest and there were often riots. The effigy that people burnt on their bonfires was Pope Paul, not Guy Fawkes. By the early 19th century no-one celebrated the night anymore. However, Catholic emancipation in Britain became a strong movement and there were protests around the country. Bonfire nights became popular again, especially in Lewes – once more the scene of dangerous riots.
Fortunately, today there is a carnival atmosphere in Lewes on Bonfire Night; the entire city closes for the spectacular parades, music and banners.


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Bonfire Night - lett. la notte dei falò.

guy - fantoccio.

smugglers - contrabbandieri.

burning torches - torce accese.

throughout Britain - in tutta la Gran Bretagna.

fireworks - fuochi artificiali.

at the stake - sul rogo.

they refused to renounce - rifiuta-rono di abiurare.

riots - disordini, tumulti.

banners - stendardi.