Tonight our little town is commemorating Guy Fawkes Day with a big old bonfire and a fireworks display in Farnham park. There will be a candle light procession from the High Street right up to the castle where everyone will gather to burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes and to watch fireworks light up the sky. It’s an event that almost every town or village in England celebrates at this time of year and it is more-or-less in conjunction with Halloween or – perhaps a harvest festival.
However, I have learned of a tradition down in Devon, one of the southern counties of England, that — strangely enough — hasn’t caught on throughout the rest of England: That of the Tar Barrel Festival in Mary St. Ottery. It is described thusly:
The town typically stages annual events around Guy Fawkes Night when, in a tradition dating from the 17th century, barrels soaked in tar are set alight and carried aloft through parts of the town by residents.
I don’t intend to go out tonight to watch our bonfire and fireworks display because it’s cold and wet. However, I could be persuaded to watch grown men run through the town with burning barrels on their backs.