Also known as Bonfire Night or Cracker Night on 5 November, this is an annual English tradition going back over 400 years, and until about 1980 was also celebrated in other British colonies including Australia. It commemorated the discover of the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes (1570-1606), a member of the conspirators was found guarding explosives beneath the House of Lords, ready to blow up Parliament House during the state opening of the new monarch James I’s first English Parliament.
To celebrate the King’s survival, bonfires were lit around London soon afterwards and this led to the enforcement of an Act introducing an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure, known as Gunpowder Treason Day. By the eighteenth century it became Guy Fawkes Day, when children begged for money, and effigies of Guy Fawkes were burnt on bonfires. In 1859 the Act was repealed and by the twentieth century, it had become an annual social occasion with the burning of ‘guys’ on bonfires and firework displays, and with little understanding of the historical significance. Due to the increasing number of accidents involving children and fireworks, the banning of Guy Fawkes Night was enforced in South Australia in the 1970s.