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Hastings bonfire procession through Old town, town centre with bonfire and fireworks on the beach.

Sussex Bonfires

Dates of Bonfires in 1066 Country

Hastings Bonfire Celebrations, 13  October

Northiam Bonfire Procession & Fireworks, 20 October

Ninfield Bonfire, 20 October

Hailsham Fireworks, 20 October

Battel Bonfire, 3 November - 7.30pm

Robin Hood (Icklesham), 4 November

Rye, 10 November

Robertsbridge, 17 November

Origins of the Bonfires

Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes night, is a much-loved date on the events calendar and around Sussex with many towns and villages celebrate it from September through to November.

The Sussex Bonfires have a 300 year-old tradition which commemorate not only Guy Fawkes but also the burning of 17 Protestant martyrs at the stake, burned as heretics during the reign of Mary 1(Bloody Mary, Catholic monarch) in the 1500s.

The fifth of November commemorates the day when Guy or Guido Fawkes and his fellow band of Catholic conspirators were foiled in their dastardly plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, a day when King James I was in session for the State Opening.

The historical significance of the evening has faded somewhat, but come 5 November, Britain is aglow with orange bonfires and burning effigies of naughtly old Guy, fireworks screaming across the crisp autumn night.

Penny for the Guy?

This tradition started when, for a few days before Bonfire Night, children would take their homemade guys out on to the street asking for a penny for the guy from adults.  The money would be spent on fireworks or sweets, though today's children would be more likely to demand a pound for the guy.  Children also used to blacken their faces, as Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators might have done.

Burning the Effigies

The burning of effigies existed as a tradition long before Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot.  From the mid-13 century onwards the word 'guy' was used to mean a dummy or effigy.  'Guy' in turn was derived from the Anglo-Norman word 'guyster' describing the stooge in medieval comedies, and could be the origin of the slang term 'geezer'.

However, the effigy burned at bonfire nights up and down the country is of the Catholic Guy Fawkes.  In Hastings, Lewes and other towns things are much more imaginative as Fawkes does feature but he's only one of several 'victims'.

Over many years the competition between the Bonfire Boys in the different societies, all sorts of official maydem (including burning barrel races), surprisingly-costumed torch-lit processions and visiting crowds of up to 80,000 have created a thrilling evening.  It's controversial, and more than a little eccentric, but try and change it at your peril...

Each Bonfire Society will nominate its subject for that year, which may be any person of their choosing - politician, celebrity, etc.


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