The History of Bonfires

Published: 01/11/2022 By Allan Fuller

Why Bonfires to celebrate the 5th of November? And why do we call men ‘guy’ or a group of people ‘guys’? 

It was in fact due to an Act of Parliament, that Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the King's escape from assassination when conspirators planned to blow up Parliament when the King was there to open the new session.
The Act stated that by lighting bonfires, provided that "this testemonye of joy be carefull done without any danger or disorder" designated each 5 November as a day of thanksgiving for "the joyful day of deliverance” and remained in force until 1859.  Guy Fawkes was one of 13 conspirators, but he is the individual most associated with the plot.
 Bonfires were accompanied by fireworks from the 1650s onwards, and it became the custom after 1673 to burn an effigy (usually of the pope) when heir presumptive James, Duke of York, converted to Catholicism. Effigies of other notable figures have found their way onto the bonfires, such as Paul Kruger and Margaret Thatcher. 

Most modern effigies are of Guy Fawkes. The "guy" is normally created by children from old clothes, newspapers, and a mask. During the 19th century, "guy" came to mean an oddly dressed person, while in many places it has lost any pejorative connotation and instead refers to any male person and the plural form can refer to people of any gender, as in "you guys".