Though it was drizzling in the morning, by evening, the sky had cleared and we had a very nice day.  We couldn’t have asked for better weather.  It’s unusual, but we’ve been enjoying a long stint of Indian summer.  It was perfect for Newick Bonfire Night.

Yes, I mentioned it last year, but I thought I’d do another post about Guy Fawkes’ Night in Newick.  Bonfire Night is 5th November, but we found out through a friend that Newick always has theirs the Saturday before the actual Guy Fawkes’ Day.  I don’t know what happens if it falls on a Saturday.  I do know that all the bonfire societies of the surrounding towns join in with the parade, and the largest parade is held in Lewes (at least in our part of the country).  Lewes always has theirs on the actual night.  So, if it falls on a Saturday, there will be some competition.  But, I suppose, since they all work together to stretch out Bonfire Night to at least Bonfire Week, Newick would probably hold theirs a week early.

This time last year, it was intermittently raining and drizzling, and the weather was cold.  It felt miserable to be out, but it did not prevent the crowds.  I had expected to see a larger crowd this year because of the fine weather, but it did not seem to make a difference.  It was still a good-sized crowd.

Because it was Halloween Night, there were houses decorated for the occasion.  Though it may not be celebrated like in the US, we did see some homes that went all out for Halloween.  Our neighbourhood, surprisingly, had trick-or-treating; though not all participated.  Nevertheless, the kids enjoyed it because they missed out last year.  They dressed up and one of them kept it on for Bonfire Night, so she fit in with the paraders.

The main street through Newick was closed off for five hours, so we had to park almost in the next town.  It was very dark in some parts of the street because the overhanging trees shut out the light; otherwise, the nearly full moon did shed quite a bit of light.  With the mist coming in, the full moon, the Halloween decorations, it lent an eerie atmosphere to the occasion.  Then, when you see the torches glowing in that setting, it was rather spooky, reminding me of a superstitious event from childhood that had frightened me.  On top of that, there were intermittent Bangs! from some firecrackers that the organisers let off.  If you didn’t expect it, you’d jump because it sounds like a big explosion.  Our youngest was scared at first, but she became accustomed to them.

For those who’ve never attended a Bonfire Night, you should learn to expect some politically-motivated speech before they let off the fireworks.  Also, some places may charge admission fees, but for the most part, the parades down here are free.  However, they do go around collecting donations.  Part of their donations go to some designated charity.  This year, it looks like the Motor Neuron Disease society will be getting a cut.

In comparison to last year, I have to say that I was rather disappointed by this year’s display of fireworks.  I do not know if they had more fireworks last year, or if it was because I was not expecting as much that it appears last year’s was longer.  I do know that the weather last year prevented smoke from accumulating in the air.  Unfortunately, with the clear and calm sky, smoke from the initial fireworks gathered in mid-air and did not move away rapidly.  It even obscured our view of the moon.  Because the fireworks, once started, are set through a timing device, they could not stop the fireworks until the smoke was gone, so much of the second part of the fireworks could not be enjoyed.

The bonfire itself seemed smaller this year.  It was high, but thin, so that shortly after it was lit, the tower toppled over and the effigy fell off.  We were at least 30 ft. away, but the fire was so intense that it felt like I was sitting in front of a roaring fireplace.  Also, the ash drifted very high and dropped very far.  While we were waiting to get into the village shop, at least 100 ft. away, we had ash raining down on us.  I was not paying attention to the ash and sparks at the beginning until the foam plate I was holding started dropping holes.  Our jackets also suffered some holes.

Despite all that, it was a good night.  If we stay in the area, I think this will become an annual routine for us.

Don’t you just love it?  I do.  Fall is my favourite season.  In hotter climes, I usually welcome autumn with relief.  With my sun allergies, being in dry, hot weather can be a real nuisance.  Not that I don’t enjoy nice weather, I just can’t enjoy like most people can.

Of course, there are other reasons for loving fall.  One is the change in colour.  Some places are more dramatic than others, but I’m seeing the changes all around right now.  I always get nostalgic for the times when we’d run and jump on a pile of leaves, or even looking for the multi-coloured leaves that have fallen.  The spicy scent in the air and the crackling sound of dry leaves always take me back to those days.  The sight, sounds, and scent is not the same over here, but there are other things to take its place.

Halloween would be a big commercial event at this time in the US.  Stores would have everything set for trick-or-treating or a spooky party or decorating your yard.  I think I’ve seen one effigy here, and a small selection of costumes at a local shop.  However, Bonfire Night is a totally different affair, and I can’t wait for that.  I don’t know if we’ll go to Devil’s Dyke again for Halloween or try to find something spookier.

One of the things I miss is the smell of pumpkin pie and spiced apple cider.  Luckily, I waxed some bears in that cinnamon scent, so it helps bring back some of those memories.  I also mixed it with a woodlands Christmas scent, giving it that wonderful Christmasy-fall-winter smell.

I wish I had more time to just sit, relax and enjoy the season.  Unfortunately, we’ll have to get busy packing up and trying to move.

One of my first experiences of British culture was Bonfire Night.  For those who don’t know, Bonfire Night is in remembrance of the capture of Guy Fawkes and his accomplices in the infamous Gunpowder Plot that was meant to blow up the existing parliament of the time.  Since those times, people have been burning effigies of Guy Fawkes and others on November 5th.

We went to one Bonfire Night event and had planned to go to more, but the weather was not very cooperative.  It was drizzling and cold the night we went.  Yet, it did not diminish the celebration at all.  It was unbelievable how much more elaborate Bonfire Night was as compared to the Fourth of July celebrations I’ve seen in the US.

The night started with a procession of various groups in masked costumes.  Each group had torch bearers and the whole effect was quite gothic.  Especially when they had one group carrying an effigy of Guy Fawkes.  Once the effigy reached the bonfire, they light this massive structure of tree branches and add their torches to it.  This one also burned some huge teddy bears.  (We heard that one bonfire was going to have an effigy of Sarah Palin – we did not authenticate this.)  Being a cold and rainy night, we welcomed the warmth from this huge fire.

During this entire time, several organizer members were throwing off fireworks.  When the real display came, it was fantastic.  For a full half-hour, fireworks were continually being let off and in the end, a Guy Fawkes image was blown up.  Having been used to short firework displays in the US during July 4th and New Year’s Eve, I was very surprised at the quantity and quality of fireworks on Bonfire Night.  In the US, they tend to have fireworks for about 10 minutes, with a major let-off at the end, so that you knew it was the finale.  Here, it was continuous for 30 minutes and you didn’t know when they’d be done until Guy Fawkes blew up.

This Bonfire Night display took place several days before Guy Fawkes Day.  Unlike the Fourth of July, Bonfire Night is an extended event, taking place several days before Halloween and ending several days after Guy Fawkes Day.  That may be one reason why Halloween is practically ignored over here, to my daughters’ disappointment.  It is overshadowed by Bonfire Night.  Driving around the country at night during the two weeks surrounding Guy Fawkes Day, you can see various firework displays in different towns and by individuals as well.  We saw a very nice one from our window – we didn’t know whether it was from our village or the adjacent one.