Blog: Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night 05/11/20

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!

The above is a popular children’s poem that remembers the Gunpowder plot of 1605. That’s a very long time ago I hear you say and you are right, but this action is still remembered in the UK, even now in 2020. Maybe you know what it is maybe you don’t so for those who don’t I will give you a short summary of what it is about.

What is Guy Fawkes/ Bonfire Night? Why do we celebrate it? What do we do to remember it?

Guy Fawkes night is named after Guy Fawkes. Who was Guy Fakes? Well he was a famous traitor (a traitor is someone like a terrorist but they do bad things against their own country and government). He was a traitor because, along with twelve other men he tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill King James I is 1605. The men including Guy Fawkes were stopped before they could blow up Parliament. They were arrested, then tried in court, found guilty of treason (this is what traitors do) and executed. I do not want to give you nightmares so I will not tell you how they executed traitors in England in those days, but you can trust me, it wasn’t very nice. To celebrate the survival of the King and the death of the traitors many bonfires were lit throughout England. Now many villages, towns and cities throughout the UK and other countries with strong links to the UK like Canada or Australia, hold bonfire parties where they remember this event by lighting huge bonfires and burning dolls that look like Guy Fawkes. Some towns like Lewes in East Sussex, UK also burn figures of unpopular people in modern times so maybe people like Donald Trump or Boris Johnson. Lewes has one of the biggest celebrations in the country complete with parades of torches and burning crosses.

Boris Johnson
Burning Crosses, Lewes, East Sussex
Donald Trump

To prepare for the bonfires local communities collect wood to burn, maybe old wooden things from around the house or even old furniture are added to the pile. Traditionally children would make straw or paper dolls of Guy Fawkes that would be burnt in the fire, in the days before November the 5th they may stand in the street or go from house to house asking “a penny for the Guy” with this money they can buy sweets or sparklers. Of course these days people probably give them a bit more than a penny.

“a penny for the Guy”
Bonfire Night sparklers

In addition to having bonfires most places all put on big firework displays which many people enjoy and while I do think fireworks are nice to look at I do not like them very much because they scare my doggy. However this is a very old tradition so it would be very difficult to stop it. This year I imagine there will not be any big public celebrations because of the current situation so maybe the only people who will be happy are those people who have dogs and of course the dogs themselves and other animals too.

November 5th Fireworks Display

Maybe you didn’t know who Guy Fawkes was but I am sure you have seen his face before because many people today who are anarchists or against governments wear his face as a mask because he is a symbol of revolution and rebellion.

Guy Fawkes mask

To learn more about this British tradition watch this video and try the quiz too. Also if you have any questions about this or anything else please do contact me.

Click the picture to watch the video and take the quiz

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