Guy Fawkes Day
Also known as Bonfire Night and Firework Night, Guy Fawkes Day is a holiday observed in Great Britain every year on November 5th. The original purpose of this holiday was to celebrate the foiled assassination attempt on King James I, but as time progressed, the holiday began to develop distinctive anti-Catholic overtones.
On this day, people burn effigies of politicians, and children often go door-to-door with small effigies of Guy Fawkes asking for a “penny for the Guy.” It’s also a day on which children play pranks, and people set off fireworks. So, in a sense, it’s kind of like a combination between Halloween, the Fourth of July in the U.S., and a political rally.
The History of Guy Fawkes Day
This holiday can be traced back to the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605; a plot that was foiled on November 5th when Guy Fawkes was arrested guarding a cache of explosives. The plot was a conspiracy between provincial English Catholics to assassinate the Protestant King James I of England & VI of Scotland.
They wanted to replace him with a Catholic head of state. Immediately following the arrest of Guy Fawkes, the King’s council allowed supporters to celebrate the king’s survival against the assassination plot by burning bonfires. This was the first known Guy Fawkes Day celebration.
Some historians believe that the cultural purpose of this holiday was to serve as a Protestant replacement for pagan events such as Calan Gaeaf or Samhain. Many ancient customs seem to take a new shape in this holiday, but some people think that idea is ludicrous and that the only purpose of this holiday was the safety of King James I.
Facts About Guy Fawkes
Depending on who you talk to, Guy Fawkes is either one of history’s biggest villains or one of its biggest heroes. That’s why we’ve decided to list some of the fun facts that we’ve learned about Guy Fawkes and list them below for everyone’s entertainment.
- At the age of 21, Guy Fawkes fought for the Catholic Spanish army. It was at this time that he received his Italian nickname “Guido.”
- In 1604, Guy Fawkes became involved with a small group of thirteen English Catholics who were plotting to assassinate King James.
- Contrary to popular belief, Guy Fawkes wasn’t burned on a bonfire. He was hanged and then quartered after his death.
Customs, Traditions, and Celebrations of Guy Fawkes Day
Today, this holiday is celebrated with much enthusiasm all over the UK. Bonfires are lit, fireworks are set off, effigies of politicians are burned, and songs are sung. There is also usually a fair amount of alcohol consumed on this day as well.
It’s like Halloween, the American 4th of July, and a political rally all rolled into one big holiday. Surprisingly, although Fawkes was once seen as a traitor, he is now seen as a sort of revolutionary hero by some people.
This is partly due to the popularity of the graphic novel “V for Vendetta” during the 1980s and the movie of the same name in 2005. Now, whenever there is a group fighting for their political or social rights, you can see people donning Guy Fawkes masks. This is true not only in the United Kingdom but also in the United States as well.