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Guy Fawkes Day

Guy Fawkes Day- 5 Things to Know about the UK Celebration of Failed Revolution

Guy Fawkes Day is annually celebrated throughout Britain on November 5. Being known as Bonfire Night and Firework Night as well, this holiday represents perpetual celebration of liberty over tyranny. If you may be wondering who Guy Fawkes was or how is this day celebrated, keep reading this article because here are five things you should know before celebrating the next Guy Fawkes Day.

Historical background

On the evening of the 5th of November 1605, a group of men attempted the "gunpowder plot", a failed try to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill King James the First. The man behind this terrorist act was named Guy Fawkes. Nevertheless, the plan was discovered when one of the conspirators sent a letter to his cousin warning him not to come to the Houses of Parliament. Fawkes was caught just before lighting the fuse which led him to execution. 

Religion background  

Guy Fawkes was one of a small group of Catholics who felt that the protestant government was treating Roman Catholics unfairly. They were not allowed to practice their religion in public because King James 1st, a Protestant, refused to change the laws. They hoped that attack would be the beginning of a great uprising of English Catholics. This plot backfired because it provoked hostility against all English Catholics and led to an increase in the harshness of laws against them.

5th of November Poem

For many centuries the poem about Guy Fawkes's failed revolution has been spreading throughout England. The traditional verse exists in a large number of variations but this version seems the most popular:

Remember, remember the fifth of November,

Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!


Guy Fawkes, guy, t'was his intent
To blow up king and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England's overthrow.
By god's mercy he was catch'd
With a darkened lantern and burning match.


So, holler boys, holler boys, Let the bells ring.
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the king.
And what shall we do with him?
Burn him!

Guy Fawkes mask

In the 1980s graphic novelists Alan Moore and David Lloyd created a comic strip, "V for Vendetta", in which the main protagonist is a cloaked anarchist who wears a grinning Guy Fawkes mask while battling against a fascist authoritarian state. The authors wanted to celebrate Fawkes by turning him into an anti-hero for the modern age. 

Since then the image has been adopted by the Occupy movement, and Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has also donned a Fawkes mask. It has become a regular feature of many protests. Mr Lloyd has called the mask a "convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny…it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way".

Celebration

Today, this event continues to be remembered through the usage of fireworks and bonfire parties, mostly in England but also in places such as Australia and New Zealand. A part of the celebration is burning effigies of the conspirator.