Guy Fawkes Day Tradition: Making Kids Carry Flaming Barrels of Tar

TL;DR: Is there really a tradition in England of making young boys carry flaming barrels of tar through the town square? And if so, how is that legal?

Last night I was watching TruTV Presents World’s Dumbest. One of the clips took place in England on Guy Fawkes Day.

I couldn’t tell if this was a country-wide tradition, or just specific to the local village where the clip took place, but the tradition seemed to involve filling barrels with tar, setting them on fire, then making boys of about 12 run a sort-of relay race carrying flaming barrels through the town square.

The boys seemed to be wearing protective gear (if layers and layers of clothes counts as protective gear), and they seemed to be honored to be a part of it; although by their faces a couple of them did look rather terrified.

Is this a tradition all over England, or just specific to this town? And don’t the authorities in England take kind of a dim view of making kids carry flaming barrels through town? Or is the whole thing considered some kind of big honor and the boys are proud to be a part of it?

It’s probably specific to Lewes. This is also done in the Orkney Islands (at the New Year) and seems to be connected to older, pagan religious rituals

It’s not an England-wide thing, no. I’m pretty sure they do it in Lewes, which has a reputation to keep up as home of over-the-top and slightly weird Guy Fawkes celebrations.

I doubt that they’re “made” to do it, unless you count peer pressure - you’re probably a wuss if you refuse. They seem to have a lot of jollifications around Guy Fawkes Day, mostly involving burning stuff:

It’s the “procession of the martyrs’ crosses” which might give Americans pause: