November Celebrations and Observations: An Interesting Month

November generally doesn’t have great weather in southwestern British Columbia, but it does have some interesting attractions. November 5th reminds me of the fireworks of my childhood and early teens, when I lived in the UK. Remembrance Day can be a somber celebration, but it’s an important one. Christmas markets open in mid November, and turning on the lights on the big outdoor trees is celebrated as well. The month also holds other attractions, including beautifully coloured leaves at the start of the month and winter markets.

Moving sparkers photographed at a low shutter speed
(Photo by Mike1024, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain image)

Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night

I enjoyed Fireworks Day (as we called the event) in my childhood. We never thought about the true meaning of the day as young children, though I did think about it as I grew older. We never celebrated with creating a fire and burning a stuffed guy on it, either, though some people did. The fireworks and their light was enough excitement for my sister and myself.

I remember the sparklers that we held in our hands. They were long fireworks with a stem to hold. The burning section released a silvery light that was fun to move through the air. My father also released fireworks that shot towards the sky from our back garden and released coloured light and sometimes noise. I have no idea about the UK rules relating to releasing fireworks from gardens in modern times, but I loved the sight when I was a child.

We do see some fireworks where I live now. Some people in my neighbourhood release them on Halloween. They can be enjoyable to see. A big fireworks display is traditionally held in downtown Vancouver to welcome the new year.

Multicoloured fireworks are my favourite type.
(Photo by Pixabay, via Pexels, CC0 License)

History of Bonfire Night

Guy Fawkes Day is actually quite a macabre celebration if we think about its origin. It commemorates the failed attempt to assassinate King James 1 on November 5th, 1605. James was a Protestant. Guy Fawkes and his companions were Catholics and objected to the way that people of their religion were treated..

The group containing Guy Fawkes decided to blow up the Houses of Parliament when the king was there. Fawkes deposited barrels of gunpowder in the building and camouflaged them. The plot was discovered before any damage had occurred, and the group was sentenced to death. Guy Fawkes either fell or jumped off the ladder to the execution platform and died of a broken neck.

A beautiful red poppy, or Papaver rhoeas
(Photo by Agnieszka Kwiercien, Nova, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 License)

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day is held on November 11th. I think it’s an important reminder of not only the two world wars but of other wars that existed in the past and that are taking place today. It often seems strange to me that the most intelligent being on the planet can’t solve disagreements peacefully. We (speaking in general terms) have some unpleasant features, despite our intelligence.

The poem below is often read at Remembrance Day services and ceremonies. It was written by a Canadian named John McCrae (1872—1918). He was a doctor and a Lieutenant Colonel in the First World War and fought in Europe. He wrote two versions of the first line in the poem.

Poppies (including the species shown above) reportedly grew quickly over the graves of the dead soldiers. The species is often known as the common poppy or the Flanders poppy. A red poppy has become a symbol of Remembrance Day and a mark of respect, though the flowers are often artificial today.

John McCrae’s poem is shown below, including the alternate versions of the first line.

In Flanders fields, the poppies blow (grow)
   Between the crosses, row on row, 
       That mark our place; and in the sky
       The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago 
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
                   In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
              In Flanders fields.

A Christmas market in downtown Vancouver in British Columbia (Photo taken by me)


Christmas Markets

The Christmas markets in my area are designed to sell items that could be given as gifts or that provide the Christmas spirit, but they have other attractions. The one beside Burrard Inlet in Vancouver is shown above and below. The mulled wine building has models of choristers, which periodically sing carols. The market has been held for several years and is scheduled to appear this year as well.

The temporary market is held in Jack Poole Plaza. This is a spacious place to explore during the rest of the year (except during other special events). The building in the background is part of the Vancouver Convention Centre and has grass growing on its roof. The long and shiny tubes that cross over each other form a sculpture called the Olympic Cauldron. The cauldron was created for the 2010 Olympic Games and looks like sparkling ice when it’s approached. It’s lit for special events.

In the background to the left of the singers in the photo below, the Digital Orca sculpture can be seen. It was created by Douglas Coupland. The sculpture looks like a vertical whale from a distance, but as a viewer approaches, they see that it’s made of blocks that are carefully arranged.

The Christmas market with Burrard Inlet in the background (Photo taken by me)

Other November Attractions

The red, orange, and yellow autumn leaves on trees and shrubs are attractive at the start of November. Some leaves have multiple colours. They are shed early in the month, however, and leave the bare branches of winter visible. September and October are better times for seeing the leaves.

Winter farmers markets in my area are often enjoyable to visit. They are usually held once a week, such as on every Saturday. Vendors in winter include ones that create fresh food indoors, such as baked goods and chocolates, and ones selling food sources that are available all year, such as fish and cheese. Some other foods are available because the Vancouver area generally has mild winters and because some plants can grow in protected areas, such as greenhouses. Food and coffee trucks are available at the markets.

Fallen leaves that I photographed and arranged in late September

Possibilities for Exploration

There is lots to do and see in November and winter where I live. I live near a major city, which is probably part of the reason why community activities continue throughout the year. Even if this isn’t the case where you live, if you have access to a computer and the Internet, there are opportunities for you to explore interesting events in November and throughout the year. Books, magazines, and newspapers can be read for free if you belong to a local library and if the facility subscribes to them. Other types of media are available as well, some of them for free (once you’ve paid for your Internet service).

If you can’t afford to pay for your own computing device or know someone else who can’t, public libraries often have free Internet service for their members. In my area, refurbished phones with Internet access are donated to those who need them, and free Internet service is available in multiple places. This is probably the case in some other locations. Digital and physical exploration can both be very interesting pursuits.