On bonfires, Pennsylvania and the KKK

We have relatives who have the good fortune to live in Pennsylvania (somewhere in America).

They were visiting us a while back, and recounted a tale of their first attempt at a major social occasion when they moved there (some 26 years ago) – by inviting the surrounding residents to an English bonfire.

Bonfire NightNovember the 5th (Bonfire Night) is an English celebration of the execution by Hanging, Drawing and Quartering of the Catholic Political Activist Guido (Guy) Fawkes and his accomplices, following a failed attempt at blowing up our Houses of Parliament and King James 1st back in 1605 (The Gunpowder Plot).

It is celebrated by burning effigies of Guy Fawkes (the Guy) on a large bonfire, mimicing the final stages of this particularly unpleasant method of execution where the miscreant is hanged until almost unconscious, and then has his genitalia & entrails cut out and burnt before his eyes, and finally gets chopped into bits (invariably resulting in death).

Apparently this celebration is practically unheard of in the wilds of Pennsylvania so all the neighbours from the surrounding area were invited over to partake in this English custom, and many of them arrived to welcome the newcomers at this ‘quaint’ occasion.

All was going remarkably well and a good time was being had by all, until it was noticed that the locals were fleeing to their vehicles and departing at high speed in a flat panic.

The reason became apparent when it was noticed that the bonfire, which had been built around a sturdy old scarecrow (as the Guy) had burnt down and all but collapsed, leaving a blazing 10 foot high cross in the middle of the garden… which for various reasons was seen as socially undesirable back in 1980 (or indeed at any time).

Fortunately the trauma wasn’t permanent and they are still valued members of the community all these years later.

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