Bonfire Night / Guy Fawkes Night / Fireworks Night
‘Remember, remember the 5th of November. Gunpowder treason and plot. We see no reason why Gunpowder treason should ever be forgot’.
In 1605 a man called Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the houses of Parliament with gunpowder. We have remembered and celebrated this ever since. Depending on where you are from, the 5th of November has several names: Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes Night and the more modern ‘Fireworks Night’. The 5th November is celebrated across Great Britain with fireworks, bonfires and the occasional burning of a Guy Fawkes effigy.
Over 400 years ago, the 5th was to remember and celebrate the failure of a man called Guy Fawkes. Guy was a catholic who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament while King James I was present for the State Opening of Parliament. Guy Fawkes was caught in a tunnel under the House of Lords guarding the gunpowder explosives. He was later tortured then executed for the crime of treason against the King. The people of London celebrated that very night by lighting Bonfires throughout the city as people rejoiced that the King survived.
This significance of the bonfire has now been lost in history, as people now come together to watch the fireworks and stay warm by a bonfire. At some bonfires you might see an effigy in a hat to represent Guy Fawkes, but normally all expense is given to the fireworks than the bonfire. It is still known that since the 5th November 1605, the cellars of the Houses of Parliament are searched before each State Opening of Parliament.
Guy Fawkes was immortalised in a nursery rhyme, part of which is well known today:
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?
The nursery rhyme was to remind each new generation that treason will never be forgotten…
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Guy Fawkes legacy though.
‘We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world’.
There has since been a film celebrating his Gunpowder Plot attempt. V for Vendetta is set in a futuristic totalitarian Britain without freedom and identity. The vigilante known only as V models himself on Guy Fawkes (including a mask) in the hope to liberate his homeland from the government. Spoiler alert: he succeeds in blowing up the Houses of Parliament on the 5th November.
‘Beneath this mask there is more than flesh, Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof’.