(Yes, this is the most ridiculously over the top patriotic firework photo I could find.)
Ah, the Fourth of July. Independence! Patriotism! Rocket Pops! Parades! Fried chicken! Watermelon! Kids running and twirling in the twilight, parents talking over the rim of patriotic beverages, then the boom and burst of fireworks as you lay back on a blanket on the grass. Summer, family, friends, pride. If you are lucky enough to have been to the American History Museum in DC, you might think of the original Star Spangled Banner herself. Or of Francis Scott Key, watching the flaming sky over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in 1814. Or maybe history or lyrics aren’t quite your thing, but you still stand tall with the crowd when the national anthem is played, throw your shoulders back and call out “OH SAY!” with the living crowd. Fourth of July. It’s an uncomplicated holiday.
Enter Guy Fawkes Day, aka Bonfire Night. The celebration of the failure of a four-hundred-years-dead terrorist to blow up a government building. Which is commemorated by wearing evil clown masks, setting giant fires, burning people in effigy, and fireworks. To an outsider, there’s a pleasing frisson of ambiguity to the holiday. Are we celebrating Guy Fawkes? Celebrating an anti-establishment sentiment and the anti-hero? Is this a holiday for vengeance? A holiday celebrating the death penalty? Are the English symbolically burning and blowing crap up so they can handle being civilized the rest of the year? Do we recognize that we all could be heroes, or villains, or both? (V for Vendetta really did not clear anything up for me.)
We’re taking the kids to a “Family Bonfire” at their school. I assume this means the burning-in-effigy part will be kept to a minimum. If everyone is wearing those masks I am going to get a bit stabbity. Other than that, should be a gorgeous night. If you happen to be there, you might hear me humming to myself. If you see me throw back my shoulders and call out “OH SAY!” you’ll know I’m bringing a little uncomplicated celebration along with me.