Planning the Perfect Bonfire Night Party

November 4, 2016
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Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bonfire Night 2020 is undoubtedly going to be rather different this year. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still host the perfect Bonfire Night party. Although many public firework displays and bonfire events have been cancelled, this shouldn’t stop you from doing something to mark the day.

Here, we suggest how you can host a Bonfire Night party and have an enjoyable time this year, while following the COVID restrictions and keeping everyone safe.

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COVID-19 Health and Safety Considerations

Before you even begin to plan your Bonfire Night 2020 party, you need to ensure that it will comply with lockdown and COVID restrictions. You certainly don’t want to be putting your guests at risk of transmitting COVID-19 by inviting more people than are legally allowed. Nor do you want to be landed with a fine of up to £10,000 for hosting an illegal gathering!

if you are planning to have fireworks or a bonfire event after 00:01 on Thursday 5th November (so after Wednesday 4th), England will be in lockdown and so only your household and members of your support bubble will be able to attend. If you are having an event before then, such as Wednesday evening, you must follow what your local COVID alert level permits you to do. Remember that any guests who aren’t in your household or bubble must leave before midnight as this is when restrictions begin.

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What Do the Different Local COVID Alert Levels Mean for Bonfire Night 2020?

If you are having your event before Bonfire Night (Thursday 5th November), you should consult the government website to ensure that you follow the rules for the local COVID alert level (or tier) that you are in. To summarise, the following restrictions apply to each level.

Medium (Tier 1)

You can have a maximum of six people at your event and must not socialise in groups larger than this. An exception to this is if your household or bubble exceeds six. For example, a family of two adults and four children can have one adult (who lives alone) round for Bonfire Night if they have already formed a support bubble together. Another example of an event allowed for those living in a Tier 1 area would be a household of two inviting four more people round to their house. However, everyone from a different household who is present at this event must maintain a social distance of at least 2 metres at all times. For Tier 1, the rule of six includes both indoors and outside.

High (Tier 2)

You can invite family and friends who aren’t in your household or support bubble to your Bonfire Night event so long as they are always outdoors, such as a garden or other outdoor space. You cannot invite them into your home, except to pass directly through if they need to do so to get into your garden. Again, when having people round, there must not be more than six people at your event. This includes all members of your own household who are present and children of any age. As for Tier 1, all members of different households must maintain a distance of at least 2 metres from one another. This means that your party must be held outside at all times, so you need to consider whether this changes your party plans and what you can do.

Very High (Tier 3)

You must not invite anyone to your event who isn’t in your household or support bubble. This is the highest local COVID alert level and therefore has the tightest restrictions. People cannot socialise inside or outside who are not from the same household or bubble.

Once you understand what you can do on Bonfire Night and who you can invite, you can then start to plan your party. Although the COVID restrictions may disrupt your plans slightly, you can still celebrate and have a fun evening with your household.

Toasting marshmallows over a fire

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Additional COVID-19 Considerations

Once you know that you can host a Bonfire Night party and who you can invite, you must then ensure that you take some further precautions to keep your guests safe. You should also consider:

  • Can you put in place the necessary hygiene measures? For example, you could ask your guests to bring their own personal supply of hand sanitiser to use. You might also ask if they bring a face covering to wear if they need to enter your house, such as to get through to the garden, or if you’re hosting an event indoors (if you’re in Tier 1 only). You must also consider how they can use your bathroom without potentially transmitting the virus. Providing separate hand towels is one option you may take.
  • Do you and your guests know what to do if someone has COVID-19 symptoms or has to self-isolate? If any member of your household or bubble starts to show symptoms of COVID-19, you must not invite other people to your party. Likewise, if you are having guests from other households round (before the lockdown comes into force), they must not come if they develop symptoms or need to self-isolate.
  • Do you have enough space in your house or garden? If your guests are from a different household, you must maintain at least 2 metres distance from each other at all times. If you’re having a fireworks display or bonfire, it may be difficult to have this and maintain social distancing safely. Therefore, you must determine what can be done that doesn’t put anyone’s health and safety at risk. If something isn’t going to be safe, you may need to reconsider how many people you have at your event, or what you do.

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Bonfire and Firework Safety During COVID-19

If you’re having your own bonfire or firework display this year, you need to remember that both can be very dangerous. Last year, the London Fire Brigade attended over 2,000 incidents over the Halloween and Bonfire Night period. With most public displays cancelled in 2020, it’s likely many people will host their own events who have not done so before. This means they may be inexperienced in setting off fireworks or starting and monitoring bonfires. The London Fire Brigade and many other services expect that the number of bonfire and firework related incidents will increase this year. 

If you haven’t set off fireworks or lit a bonfire before, it’s important that you fully understand how to do so safely. Visit our article ‘Bonfire & Firework Safety: Assessing The Risks’ to find out how to ensure your bonfires or firework displays are safe by following the Firework Code.

If you don’t feel comfortable setting off fireworks or having a bonfire, or believe you won’t be able to do so safely, you should commemorate the day in a different way.

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Alternatives to Bonfire and Fireworks for Bonfire Night 2020

It’s worth mentioning that most local councils and fire and rescue services, such as the London Fire Brigade, strongly discourage setting off fireworks or having bonfires in private gardens. This is because they can be incredibly dangerous and a health and safety risk to those involved and nearby. As explained, keeping safe on Bonfire Night is going to be even more of a challenge this year as a result of the pandemic.

Instead of setting off fireworks or having a bonfire, emergency services and local councils are suggesting alternative events for your Bonfire Night 2020 party. For example, you could:

  • Light some sparklers and use these in your garden. These should be lit one at a time, gloves must always be worn, and a bucket of water kept close by. If there are children present, they must be supervised when using the sparklers, and children under five should not be given them at all.
  • Bake some traditional Bonfire Night treats such as toffee apples or parkin. This can be a fun and tasty activity for both children and adults alike. You could also make some mulled cider or apple juice. Keep reading for some recipe inspiration!
  • Gather inside and play some board games or other party activities. This is another activity that can bring your family together and make something of the evening. If you do have a fireplace, you could always light that to create an alternative kind of bonfire.

Family playing a board game with cards

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Bonfire Night Preparations: Buying Fireworks

It is essential that you buy fireworks for your party that meet the required safety standards. When purchasing fireworks, make sure that they are CE marked and British Standard compliant. British Standard fireworks have undergone rigorous criteria to ensure they are safe for the general public to use.

The fireworks you purchase should say on the label that they comply with British Standard BS 7114 Category 2. This category means that they are safe to be set off in an enclosed outdoor area such as a garden.

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Keeping Pets Safe: Dogs, Cats & Small Animals

According to the RSPCA, 45% of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks. In order to make your party fun for everyone – including your dogs and cats – you can make some simple changes during your party.

  • It is always a good idea to provide your pet with a hiding place in the house where they will always feel safe if anything distresses them. An example of this could be under furniture or inside a cupboard. Don’t try to coax your pet out of their spot – this can cause further distress.
  • If you need to walk your dog, try and do this during daylight hours to avoid the times when fireworks are likely to be set off. Keep your cat indoors during evenings.
  • It is advisable to close all curtains and drown out the noise of the fireworks using music or the television.
  • If you have smaller animals such as rabbits or guinea pigs, or any other pets that live outside, partly cover their cages with blankets so that one area is well sound-proofed. Make sure that your pet is still able to look out. Put extra budding in the cage so the animals can burrow in to escape the noise.
  • For more information on spotting the signs of distress in pets, check out this piece from Vets Now.

Dog indoors

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Fireworks Health and Safety Considerations

To ensure everyone is kept safe during your Bonfire Night party, you should:

  • Insist that everyone watches the fireworks from one side only. Don’t let your guests stand around the fireworks, as it is harder to make sure everyone is a safe distance away. Lights your fireworks on a sturdy, flat surface, avoiding any piles of leaves or foliage.
  • Make sure you have a bucket filled with water to soak any used fireworks or fireworks which have failed to go off in. It is also a good idea to have a hose nearby to douse down any fires which could ignite as a result of the fireworks.
  • Never let children light fireworks. This should be done by a responsible adult who has not drunk alcohol beforehand. Sparklers are not recommended for children under 5.
  • Light one firework at a time. If it doesn’t go off after the fuse has burnt all the way down then it is probably a dud. However, wait half an hour before putting any duds into the bucket of water. Make sure that the firework has finished before lighting the next one. When lighting the fireworks, use a long-tipped lighter to keep your hands away from the flame.
  • Never smoke near fireworks. Also choose to wear cotton clothing if you are lighting the fireworks so if you get burnt it doesn’t stick to your skin. If the weather is particularly windy, it is recommended that you don’t light the fireworks at all.

You can find more information on bonfire night safety in our article Bonfire & Firework Safety: Assessing the Risks.

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Bonfire Night Party Food and Drink Inspiration

We’ve selected a handful of recipes that we think will go down a treat at your bonfire party. If you’re having fireworks or a bonfire, then ideally the food you serve needs to be easy to eat whilst watching fireworks and warming. You can also have fun making your sweet treats in advance with children – have a go at homemade toffee apples, cupcakes or bonfire toffee.

Hot Dogs

So now you know how to have a safe and successful bonfire night, you need some good food and drink to top it off. The BBC Good Food website has some great ideas for bonfire night treats. One that we think is a great idea is their recipe for ‘hot diggedy dogs’, a quick and easy way to make a delicious Bonfire Night classic that adults and kids will both enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 6 large pork sausages
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 6 big flour tortillas
  • 2 tbsp tomato relish

Method:

Heat your oven to 180 °C for a fan oven (200 °C for a conventional oven). Pour the oil into the tin and allow it to heat up. Add the sausages to the hot tin and roast for 10 minutes.

Move the sausages to the outer edges of the tin and then scatter the sliced onion in the centre. Sprinkle the onion slices with the mustard seeds, add some salt and pepper, and turn the sausages to coat them in the hot oil. Return the dish to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the onions are golden and the sausages are completely cooked through.

You can heat the flour tortillas in the oven, microwave or in a dry frying pan to make them softer and easier to roll. Place a sausage and some onion on each one, top with a spoonful of relish and roll, folding the bottom over. Serve straight away. You can serve them to your party guests in paper napkins, meaning less washing up!

Tray of hot dogs


Mulled Apple Juice

To complete your bonfire night festivities you need a good drink. There is nothing better than a nice mulled apple juice, an alternative to an alcoholic mulled wine and suitable for all ages.

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre apple juice
  • 1 orange, with the peel in strips
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves
  • Sugar or honey, to taste

Method:

  1. Combine all the ingredients except the sugar or honey in a non-stick saucepan.
  2. Simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Sweeten with sugar or honey, to taste.
  4. Serve hot in mugs. Please note it may need time to cool down first!

Mulled Cider

If the adults fancy something similar but a little stronger, then why not make a mulled cider. Jamie Oliver has a great recipe for this:

Ingredients:

  • 2 litres good-quality traditional cider
  • 6 cloves
  • 3-4 star anise
  • ¼ nutmeg, finely grated into the pan
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla pod, halved
  • juice of 1 orange
  • juice of 2 clementines
  • 1 pomegranate, juice and seeds of
  • 4–5 tablespoons caster sugar

Method:

  1. Pour the cider into a large pan on a low heat and warm through for a few minutes.
  2. Add all the spices and juices and turn the heat up.
  3. Once boiling, turn down to a simmer for 5–8 minutes.
  4. Taste the cider and if you need to, then add sugar.
  5. The key is not having it too sweet but the sugar can blend in with the other spices. When the flavours are just right, ladle it into mugs and serve warm.

If you have success with these recipes, tag us in your photos on twitter @hst.


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