Today, our friends in the UK celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, or as it is sometimes called, Bonfire Night. Now I was thinking … many of our UK friends … Bushka, David,Roger, Mary & Jack, to name a few … know as much about our history and culture as many of us do, so doesn’t it seem only fair that we take a few minutes to learn something of theirs? Admittedly, I knew very little of this holiday, its history, or how it is celebrated. So, I went in search of answers and I want to share what I learned with you.
The (very) Brief History …
The year was 1605. When Protestant King James I acceded to the throne, English Catholics had hoped that the persecution they had felt for over 45 years under Queen Elizabeth I would finally end, and they would be granted the freedom to practice their religion.
When this didn’t transpire, a group of conspirators resolved to assassinate the King and his ministers by blowing up the Palace of Westminster during the state opening of Parliament.
Guy (Guido) Fawkes, from York, and his fellow conspirators, having rented out a house close to the Houses of Parliament, managed to smuggle 36 barrels of gunpowder into a cellar of the House of Lords – enough to completely destroy the building. (Physicists from the Institute of Physics later calculated that the 2,500kg of gunpowder beneath Parliament would have obliterated an area 500 metres from the centre of the explosion).
The scheme began to unravel when an anonymous letter was sent to William Parker, the 4th Baron Monteagle, warning him to avoid the House of Lords. The letter (which could well have been sent by Lord Monteagle’s brother-in-law Francis Tresham), was made public and this led to a search of Westminster Palace in the early hours of November 5.
Explosive expert Fawkes, who had been left in the cellars to set off the fuse, was caught when a group of guards discovered him at the last moment. Fawkes was arrested, sent to the Tower of London and tortured until he gave up the names of his fellow plotters.
The conspirators were all either killed resisting capture or – like Fawkes – tried, convicted, and executed. The traditional death for traitors in 17th-century England was to be hanged, drawn and quartered in public. But this proved not to be the 35-year-old Fawkes’ fate. As he awaited his punishment on the gallows, Fawkes leapt off the platform to avoid having his testicles cut off, his stomach opened and his guts spilled out before his eyes. Mercifully for him, he died from a broken neck but his body was subsequently quartered, and his remains were sent to “the four corners of the kingdom” as a warning to others.
The following year, 1606, Parliament declared November 5th a national day of thanksgiving.
The Celebration …
Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated in the United Kingdom, and in a number of countries that were formerly part of the British Empire, with fireworks, bonfires and parades. Straw dummies representing Fawkes are tossed on the bonfire, as well as those of contemporary political figures. (I wonder if they would mind tossing one of Trump in there for us?)
Putin and Trump effigies … THANKS!!!
Dummies have been burned on bonfires since as long ago as the 13th century, initially to drive away evil spirits. Following the Gunpowder Plot, the focus of the sacrifices switched to Guy Fawkes’ treason. Traditionally, these effigies called ‘guys’, are carried through the streets in the days leading up to Guy Fawkes Day and children ask passers-by for “a penny for the guy.”
The Food …
The traditional cake eaten on Bonfire Night is Parkin Cake, a sticky cake containing a mix of oatmeal, molasses, syrup and ginger.A poem …
Remember, remember, the fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
We see no reason Why Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot ….
And now, I would like to take a moment to wish all my friends in the UK a Happy Guy Fawkes Night! Be careful with those fireworks. I’m sure I either left out something important or got some of my facts wrong, though I did try to use UK resources, so feel free to add or amend!