The sky will be filled with an explosion of noisy fireworks and the smell of smoke all over Britain this weekend for Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night (5th November), a celebration of the attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. This seems an odd thing to celebrate but Guy Fawkes is as important to generations of children here as Hallowe'en was to me when growing up in Canada (Hallowe'en is now celebrated much more in Britain too so a dreary period when the days are getting shorter is a fun time for children and the not so young).
As well as a seemingly extended period every year of fireworks in private gardens, traditionally many families had parties centred on a big bonfire with an effigy of Guy Fawkes on top, and lots of warming food and drink to help ward off the cold of a dark November night. There are fewer bonfires now (for safety and environmental reasons) but, if you are a UK home exchange member and arrange an exchange over early November with a family that may never have heard of Guy Fawkes, do let them know where and when your closest organised fireworks display will be held or, if you have friends or neighbours who always have a party for Guy Fawkes, ask if your exchange guests can come. If you happen to live in Somerset, direct them to the closest Carnival, an amazing spectacle of light and sound from the dozens of colourful carts (see Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival).
Tell your exchange guests to wrap up warm though. When my daughter Tanya was 11 she had a good friend, Laura, an American girl living in London for a year with her mother, a teacher who had done a job and home swap with a teacher from our local primary school. Laura was none too impressed by standing around in the cold at the fireworks display we took her to. Finally she asked, quite reasonably for a very cold 11 year old American, 'Why don't you people do this in July?'
People are generally delighted to share their local customs and traditions with others, whether a carnival, special national holiday or any number of good excuses for a party. Being involved with the local community in their celebrations is bound to be a memorable highlight for home exchange families.