Next weekend (or next Monday, if you want to be precise), revellers across the country will be flocking towards giant piles of old timber, which will be decorated with an effigy of one of history’s most notorious villains before being set alight. It’s a bit of a strange tradition, but it’s a great excuse for a community get together.
Let’s take a look at some of the more traditional elements, and a few newer ones, too.
A bonfire can be as big or small as you like. While there’s no law against burning stuff in the UK, you can be fined if you allow the resulting smoke to drift across a nearby road or railway line. It’s for this reason that the big bonfire celebrations tend to be in the middle of nowhere, preferably on the top of large hills. Naturally, you’ll want to burn only stuff that’s non-toxic, like timber. Many items of old, cheap furniture will come with a plastic veneer on the top, which will emit a truly ghastly odour when you set light to it. So be sure to check.
To celebrate bonfire night, we also need some actual fireworks. If you’re hosting a really big party, that means category four fireworks – which only a professional will be legally entitled to release. You’ll want to also check with your local council that there aren’t any special rules you need to abide by.
You might also want to distribute some sparklers. The usual safety rules apply, here: make sure small children are supervised when using them, and make sure that there’s a bucket of water to hand so that you can safely dispose of the spent ones.
While fireworks and bonfires represent a significant chunk of the evening’s entertainment, you’ll need a few sideshows in order to make the evening last. Food, drink and music are all obligatory, as is apple-bobbing: that time-honoured pastime of filling a paddling-pool with water and apples and inviting partygoers to pick them out using only their teeth. You’ll need a pool that’s sufficiently deep; pushing the apple against the bottom of the pool is not allowed.
We’re also going to recommend that your party come equipped with a photo booth or two. These provide a supervised, all-in-one means of capturing the smiling faces of your guests. They’ll issue printed and digital versions of the photos they capture, and they’ll avoid the need for grainy, low-light photos taken on your smartphone.