Event and Festivals

Guy Fawkes Night 2019: History, Significance of the Day Popularly Called as Bonfire Night in the UK

Guy Fawkes Night bonfire (Photo Credits: Pixabay)

Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated on November 5 every year and it is also known as the bonfire night. It marks the failure of the Gunpowder plot in 1605, in which 13 men including Guy Fawkes plotted to blow up the House of Parliament in London.

The plan was revealed to the authorities in an anonymous letter sent to William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle, on October 26, 1605, and therefore, it failed to be executed. During a search of the House of Lords in the evening on November 4, 1605, Fawkes was discovered guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder, which was enough to reduce the House of Lords to rubble and was arrested.

What was the Gun Powder plot?

The conspirators’ aimed to kill King James 1 and also kidnap the king’s daughter Elizabeth. The plotters had planned that once the king and his Parliament were dead, they intended to install Elizabeth on the English throne as a titular Queen. The Guy Fawkes Night thus marks the failed assassination attempt against King James I.

The plan was hatched by a gang of Roman Catholic activists, led by Robert Catesby.  Guy Fawkes, Thomas Bates, Robert and Thomas Winter, Thomas Percy, Christopher and John Wright, Francis Tresham, Everard Digby and Hugh Owen were some of the plotters in the crew.

Fawkes was known for his technical expertise and on that day, he was entitled with the responsibility of lighting the fuse of the gunpowder. However, he was caught red-handed and was tortured until he gave the names of the other conspirators.  Fawkes was executed in January 1606, but he escaped the gallows by jumping from there, but unfortunately broke his neck. His corpse was quartered and sent to “the four corners of the kingdom” as a warning to others.

How do people celebrate this day?

People remember this day by saying: “Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot. We see no reason why gunpowder treason Should ever be forgotten.” Bonfires are lit across the country and people celebrate it with food, drink and music.

The 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. Dummies representing Fawkes are tossed on the bonfire, and children ask the passerby for a penny for the guy.

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