Fifth of November vs. Fourth of July

 

First, regarding the picture above, you’re just going to have to go with me on this one: we just happened to be waiting for a bus by London Bridge on Saturday night when we saw fireworks just behind Tower Bridge.  The only camera I had was on my iPad, which took this crappy photo.

In case you didn’t remember, remember, today the 5th of November, or Guy Fawkes Day in the UK. There have been fireworks aplenty these past few days, and I would be remiss if I failed to take this opportunity to contribute to them by pitting the fireworking holidays of the US and the UK in a trite competition. So here we go, in particular order…

Time of year:

At first this seems like a slam dunk for the US. Our Independence Day is in the summer, when the weather is perfect for a barbecue, and for general merrymaking outdoors.

But the conditions on the 5th of November in Britain are, on further inspection, rather better for the occasion. Since the 4th of July is right after the summer solstice, one has to wait quite a while for the sky to be dark enough for optimal pyrotechnic appreciation. But November 5th falls just after the end of British Summer Time (the proverbial ‘fall back’), so it is completely dark out by 5 pm. This means you can start the fireworks much earlier, and that the time window for multi-sensory ballistics is much bigger (although in the UK, as in the US, some ne’er-do-wells continue the explosions long after said window has closed).

Advantage: Guy Fawkes Day

Object of celebration:

The object of celebration is so different that it could go either way. The US is celebrating our independence from the British Empire —  no mean feat, as it took everyone else in the empire another hundred years or more to finally give Brittania the finger.

The UK is celebrating the foiling of a Catholic plot to blow up Parliament — a very good thing, to be sure, but somewhat less impressive given that one of the plotters of the Gunpowder Treason had, so it seems, tipped off Baron Monteagle by sending him an anonymous letter warning “they shall receyve a terrible blowe this parleament.”

Advantage: Independence Day

Symbolism

Even if you’re British, you have to admit that Guy Fawkes Day has been stripped of most of its symbolism, which is why it’s often called Bonfire Night or even Fireworks Night. That name makes more sense than calling it Guy Fawkes Night and setting off fireworks to celebrate an explosion that didn’t happen.

Advantage: Independence Day

Safety:

Of course whenever large amounts of explosives are entrusted into the hands of amateurs, we have to be concerned about safety. But unless Brits are an order of magnitude more inept in their handling of fireworks than Americans (an, at best, unwarranted assumption), the 4th of July is likely far more dangerous than the 5th of November. Why? Because the 4th of July is the most dangerous day to be driving in the US. And of course, almost everyone in the US is driving.

Advantage: Guy Fawkes Day

So, by the categories I’ve considered, it appears to be a 2-2 draw. Feel free to add your own considerations to tip the balance, if you can.

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