Between the 4th and the 5th of November, a man called Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellars with the gunpowder and the plot was foiled. When the people started to hear that the King’s life had been saved they started to light bonfires around the country and since then November the 5th has been known as bonfire night or Guy Fawkes and is celebrated all over Britain.
As a kid I couldn’t wait for bonfire night to come around, I remember there were certain shops that were licensed to sell fireworks, and as soon as they started to advertise the different brands and types the excitement in my schoolboy’s heart started to mount.
We always used to invite another family to join us on bonfire night; we had been neighbours until I was five years old and kept in touch after we moved to different areas of the city. My father would buy the fireworks, which were sold individually or in selection boxes, and being a Station Officer in the Cardiff Fire Brigade he would carefully store the fireworks in metal boxes that once held assorted biscuits with the lid shut tight and out of arm’s reach.
Our friends would come around after six once it was dark with their collection of fireworks, my father would light the bonfire and then we would start with the fireworks, one or occasionally two at a time, and always at a safe distance. The fireworks had a blue touch paper or fuse which once light would smoulder slowly giving the people involved plenty of time to retire to a reasonably safe distance.
There were rockets which would be placed in empty milk bottles aiming up into the sky, Catherine wheels which were nailed to a post and once lit would spin around like crazy, Jacky Jumpers which jerked and jumped in all directions - one chased my mother down the garden path once - Roman Candles that threw orbs of bright light up into the night-time sky, and many more. Some went bang, some were pretty and colourful, but all were great fun to watch. There were also the ones for youngsters such as sparklers and coloured matches. I used to love the coloured matches, which were always red or green.
Nowadays it is more common to go to an organized firework display as fireworks have become very expensive, and in an organized event there are many more to see for much less money.
When I came to Colombia, I saw that safety isn’t a word that one could readily use in conjunction with the act of letting off fireworks. Here most of the fireworks people buy, which seem to be made clandestinely in small houses, are rockets which do nothing more than go bang, in fact usually a succession of three bangs.
The first time I saw people letting off fireworks was at New Year many years ago and to say I was amazed is an understatement. The rockets were held in the hand just behind and above the fuse, lit and then held at arm’s length at more or less stomach level, and then released once the holder could feel the pull of the rocket.
There are various organized firework displays at various times of the year which have much prettier fireworks of various types and colours and are a joy to watch, and then there is the Alborada!
The Alborada, which means “dawn” in Spanish is something which has become popular here in Medellin over the last five or six years, and which, according to some people I have spoken to was also once popular in the past.
Basically the Alborada is an excessive explosion of fireworks which takes place as the 30th of November becomes the 1st of December and is a way of celebrating the start of the Christmas season; the noise and amount of rockets that light up the midnight sky is hard to imagine unless you actually hear it and see it. One of my sisters in law’s once thought that the city was being attacked when the explosions started. It wasn’t, but anyone unaware of the Alborada celebration could be forgiven for thinking so.
If you are here in Medellin on the 30th of November it will be impossible to miss the Alborada as it will light up the sky and will be so noisy you will not be able to sleep!!
To see a video of the Alborada and experience the sensation of it all, you can check out this post.
If you would like to receive email notifications of updates to this site click here, fill in the relevant details and press submit.
Follow these links for more information about, Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night.