Most countries have the odd date in the year that they pin historical significance on and mark it with some sort of festival. Many countries celebrate their independence day, the United States, Australia, Pakistan all celebrate their birthdays with lots of yummy food and fireworks.
Now over here in the UK, we don’t really have that sort of ‘birthday’
because back in the day we were the mother of all the colonies but we do not like the idea of missing out on an excuse for drinking outside and lighting explosives. In the UK, our celebrations often also involve lighting a big fire outside and standing in a field with everyone we know watching fireworks on a freezing night in early November. Yes, indeed I am talking about Bonfire Night.
This is a very popular celebration each year of the ‘Gunpowder Plot’, or rather the plots failure. Let me explain.
Guido Fawkes, who we now commonly know as Guy, was part of this plot way back in 1605. He wanted to blow up the monarchy, King James I and his government and whilst some of us still may have these thoughts in various political climates, it being 1605, there was a very real risk that he might be able to pull off such a feat.
But why did he want to do this? So basically it was all down to religion. England was a staunchly Protestant country in the early 1600’s and Guy and his plotter friends were Catholic. They wanted the country to revert back to Catholicism, which they thought would be possible if they killed the king and his ministers.
Guy and Co planted 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars beneath the Houses of Parliament and prepared for a huge explosion. However, as is often the case with big schemes, someone snitched and a member of Guy’s team sent a letter to a friend who happened to work in parliament and warned him to basically call in sick on the 5th November.
This letter fell into the hands of the king’s supports and all was revealed. Guards of the king went to the cellars where the gunpowder lay. Accompanying the powder were the plotters themselves and they were arrested and executed. So with the plot foiled, everyone went home and ate hot dogs around the fire.
Okay, so maybe that last part is not true, but that is why we celebrate the fifth of November by lighting gunpowder, watching colourful, organised explosions in the sky. Some bonfires also include straw effigies, which traditionally were to ward off evil spirits as far back as the 13 hundreds, but after the events of 1605, many made straw “Guy’s” to burn during the festivities.
“Remember, remember, the fifth of November, gunpowder treason and plot…”
It is a rhyme I’d imagine we are all familiar with, from school age up, here in the UK. In the typical fashion of English humour, it is often pondered by some, exactly what part we are celebrating; the execution of Guy Fawkes or his attempt to do away with the government.
Is Bonfire Night something you like to celebrate? Let me know in the comments below.