Bonfire facts for kids
A bonfire or balefire is a large controlled outdoor fire made from bales of straw or wood. The word is believed to come from "bone fire". In the time of the Celts, there were midsummer festivals where animal bones were burnt to ward off evil spirits.
What it means in Great Britain
In Great Britain, bonfires are particularly associated with Guy Fawkes Night. This night is also known as fireworks night or bonfire night. On this night, people celebrate that the Gunpowder Plot was discovered. This discovery took place on 5 November 1605. They do this celebration each year. (It is called an annual celebration.)
What it means in Japan
In Japan, large fires called bon-bi are set to welcome the return of the spirits of the ancestors. Though the two terms are not etymologically or historically related, they serve similar purposes and indicate the universal importance of large fires.
Use of bonfires for rituals
Bonfires were also used for rituals. The idea was that the fire would purify. It was used to consecrate things, or people, that is to make them sacred, in some way. In ancient times, cattle were important symbols of wealth and status. Such cattle were led through the smoke of a bonfire. Couples who were to be wed on May Day would leap through the flames of the bonfire to seal their vows. Coals from a bonfire would be taken home to light the fires in family hearths. This practice was thought to bring good fortune. People also believed that the residents of the Faery realm were incapable of producing fire themselves; embers of bonfires would be carried to the underworld and tended there.
Neopagan and Wiccan beliefs
Nine woods are placed into a traditional Wiccan balefire. These woods are rowan, dogwood, elder, poplar, oak, juniper, holly, cedar, and apple. Occasionally, pine is also used instead of holly or elder, as are a handful of other woods. In some regions, superstition, religious belief, or tradition prohibits the cutting of certain trees.
|Wiccan bonfires or balefires|
Images for kids
A bonfire of old Christmas trees
On the beaches of Duindorp (pictured) and Scheveningen, both part of The Hague, teams annually compete to build the world's largest bonfire
Distribution of Funkenfeuer in Alemannic Europe, France and Northern Italy. Red shows traditions of Funkensonntag (the Sunday following Ash Wednesday), blue shows traditions of 1 March.
Midsummer fire (sobótka) at San (river), (Poland).
Wicker man effigy on fire at the Archaeolink outdoor museum, Oyne, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Bonfire Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.