Guy Fawkes Night

posted in: Holidays | 0

On November 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes was arrested as a member fo the Gunpowder Plot.  This was his failed attempt to assassinate King James I of England.  King James I was a protestant king and Fawkes desired to replace him with a Catholic head of state. He was caught with explosives underneath the House of Lords.

often called Bonfire Night

King James’s council allowed the public to celebrate his survival with bonfires, as long as they were “without any danger or disorder”.

The following January, only days before the surviving conspirators were executed, Parliament passed the Observance of 5th November Act, commonly known as the “Thanksgiving Act”.

Little is known about those earliest celebrations, other than church attendance was mandatory. One record does suggest “a sermon was read, the church bells rung, and bonfires and fireworks lit”.

Some enjoy wearing mask

The night occasionally became known as “Bonfire Night”.

With the passage of time and change in monarchs the celebration began to fade from public attention and in 1685 King James II banned the use of fireworks.

When William of Orange became king in 1688, he decided to have a double celebration because of his Nov. 4th birthday.

In 1742, the earliest recorded rhyme about the day was recorded.

“Don’t you Remember,

The Fifth of November,

‘Twas Gunpowder Treason Day,

I let off my gun,

And made’em all run.

And Stole all their Bonfire away.” (1742)

By the 19th Century, The Times reported the tradition was in decline or “almost forgotten”.

fireworks are a large portion of the celebration

By the Victorian era, it was the working-class children who often gathered wood for the bonfire.

By the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, organized entertainments became popular. Guy Fawkes Night was eventually renamed Firework Night. During both World War’s celebrations were often suspended.

However, children began to congregate in the streets on this night and would often dress up as Guy or make their own effigy to Guy Fawkes. Many would gather money for those in need and beg for a “penny for the guy”.

In modern times, the celebrations are normally run by local charities and other organizations, with paid admission and controlled access.

Today, by all accounts, many enjoy the celebration while the holiday has less and less to do with politics and religion.

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