Remember remember the fifth of November. Every Brit knows these words! but what do you really know about bonfire night? Anyone who is familiar with British political history, or has simply watched too much V for Vendetta, knows something about Guy Fawkes.
Catholic dissident Guy Fawkes and 12 co-conspirators spent months planning to blow up King James I of England during the opening of Parliament in London on November 5, 1605. But their assassination attempt was foiled the night before when Fawkes was discovered in a cellar below the House of Lords next to 36 barrels of gunpowder. It was a bit hard to talk yourself out of that one! He was arrested and tortured in the Tower of London. He admitted it a couple of days later and was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. Guy had to climb up on the scaffold and was so weakened by torture that the hangman had to help him up. Despite this, when the noose was put around his head he jumped from the scaffold and snapped his own neck. This was a blessing for him as otherwise he would have been still alive when his body was taken down and cut up into four pieces. (don’t mess with the Brits!)
Londoners immediately began lighting bonfires in celebration that the plot had failed, and a few months later Parliament declared November 5 a public day of thanksgiving. Guy Fawkes Day, also known as Bonfire Night, has been around in one form or another ever since.
These days most towns will have a huge firework display on the 5th or the nearest weekend (so kids can stay up late) a bit like July 4th in the USA and some people will buy fireworks and let them off in their gardens and have parties. Local pubs sometimes do firework displays as well and serve hot jacket potatoes with various toppings to keep your hands warm and of course tummy full!
Despite admitting to high treason, Guy Fawkes was selected as the 30th greatest British hero in a 2002 national BBC poll. Coming in ahead of David Beckham, Henry VIII, Charles Dickens, and a number of other notable Brits. Guy Fawkes selection may have been primarily due to the Brits sense of humour, but it is also a nod to his role in British culture and what the average person thinks of British Politics today!
Guy Fawkes’ Day is not a public holiday. Businesses, organizations and schools are open as usual. Public transport services run to their normal timetables.
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