Friday, November 5, 2010

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Today is a celebration day known as 'Guy Fawkes Night' or 'Bonfire Night' in Scotland (and elsewhere in the UK).  There will be fireworks and bonfires everywhere!

I am really excited for the fireworks--though I will have to bundle up as it's cold outside!!

Guy Fawkes Night originates from the Gunpower plot of 1605, a failed conspiracy by a group of English Catholics to assassinate King James I of England and VI of Scotland (who was Anglican) and replace him with a Catholic head of state. Basically Guy Fawkes is the guy that was supposed to blow up the House of Lords and well, he got caught and they've been punishing him ever since!!

Here's a poem that sums it all up:
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the Queen!
And what should we do with him? Burn him!
It's still celebrated and typically children create an effigy (a 'guy') and then he's burned on the night.  In the larger cities there are fireworks displays (the biggest one in Scotland is in Glasgow) and bonfires.

I found some really great older pictures of the day being celebrated in the UK from the 1930's and 40's mostly of the effigy's that children created (they used to walk around and try to get money for their creations!).  This one is from 1933.  I love that the dog is participating:

Here's one from a group of kids from 1947:
Isn't that one big?  Those kids look mighty please with themselves for having created him.

Have you ever heard of Guy Fawkes Night?  If you're in the UK, will you be celebrating around a bonfire?


  1. Though I'm an American, in the 90s we (hubby, me and 2 kids) lived in Prague. My kids went to a British school, and of course they celebrated Guy Fawkes Night! My kids loved it, but I'm not sure they were ever quite sure what they were celebrating.

  2. When I moved to England about 7 years ago (I'm from Portugal) I thought that bonfire night was related to halloween. It was only after watching the movie V for Vendetta and reading about inspiration for movie that I found out what bonfire night really means. My partner is English but doesn't celebrate it so we never do anything (except maybe see local fireworks).

  3. I love Bonfire Night too (although my cat is less than amused). Caerphilly Castle (in the valley below my village) is going to have fireworks tomorrow at 7pm and I'm mulling over wandering down to watch them (if it wasn't for a tree directly in the line of sight between my house and Caerphilly I could watch from the comfort of my living room). The wolf is very au fait with the bangs and the lights but Puck not so much, so I'm not sure if leaving them for fireworks would be a great plan. Ooh, but Cardiff Castle usually do a big event too, choices choices! I do miss the days of the actual bonfires with soup and hot dogs though I have to admit!

  4. I'd heard of Guy Fawkes but V for Vendetta taught many Americans about the holiday, in a roundabout sort of way. I had enough trouble in school remembering my country's history, short as it is, without trying to memorize everyone else's! lol

  5. Imagine my delight upon moving to London as a student to discover I share my birthday with an odd English holiday involving burning effigies and fireworks which immortalizes a 17th-century "Unibomber."

  6. I read this story to my kids recently, so it was fun to read the poem you included. I'm in Minnesota and it's fascinating to witness what others choose to celebrate as holidays!

  7. I've heard the name of the holiday but never got around to researching it. Thanks for the history lesson. Hope you had a great Guy Fawke's Day!

  8. Yes I have heard of Guy Fawkes day, but only because of the Paddington books. ;)


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