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“Bonfire Night”, or Oíche Fhéile Eóin (“Saint John’s Night”), has been observed in parts of Ireland for centuries. The earliest documentary evidence of the lighting of bonfires on the eve of the feast, 23 June, dates to the 17th century. The custom was so important that it gave rise to the appellation “Bonfire Night”. In the west of the country, and elsewhere, such as in Cork city, bonfire celebrations seem strong even recently. However, to survive, they must kaleidoscopically adapt to ever-changing circumstances.Drawing on a range of sources – from the unpublished replies to National Folklore Collection (NFC) questionnaires, to twenty-first century local newspapers, and to fieldwork undertaken in 2008 – three major changes in this custom have been identified: the material allowed in the fires, the commercialisation of bonfires, and the withdrawal of a certain part of the population from the festivities. The article will explore complementary reasons behind these trends.

 Keywords: festival, adaptation, legislation, elderly, fundraising.


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