Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night (also “Bon-a-fire Night” or “Bonnie-Fire Night”)—In England, another name for GUY FAWKES DAY. In parts of Ireland, Bonfire Night also once referred to Halloween. Now, throughout Ireland the name generally refers to Eleventh Night, the eve of the Twelfth of July, a national holiday celebrating the victory of the Protestant William III over the Catholic James II at the battle of the Boyne. For Roman Catholics, Bonfire Night once meant the eve of the Assumption, August 15, and later referred to the eve of the anniversary of the imposition of internment police, August 8.

When Bonfire Night referred to Halloween, boys typically spent the season leading up to the night collecting material for their BONFIRES; while RHYMING took place in the evenings during the last few weeks prior to Halloween, the days were given to going house-to-house collecting material for bon – fires—papers, magazines, garden cuttings, tires, wooden crates, and other items. As the material was collected, it had to be protected from marauding rival gangs who would try to steal it for their own bonfires; boys built small huts near their store of material, and would occasionally spend nights in them to oversee their hoards.

In parts of Canada (especially Newfoundland), Bonfire Night is still held on November 5, although the Guy Fawkes association has been largely forgotten. As in the Irish version, for weeks prior adolescent boys go house-to-house collecting flammable materials, although these Canadian cousins seldom include fireworks or effigy-burning. They do also hold smaller FAMILY bonfires, usually in yards or on beaches.


The Halloween Encyclopedia Second Edition written by Lisa Morton © 2011 Lisa Morton. All rights reserved