AKA Bonfire Night!
This holiday is all about vanquishing a terrorist plot—more than 400 years ago!
In the so-called the Gunpowder Plot, some English terrorists were trying to assassinate (murder) the English king, King James I of England (also known as King VI of Scotland). The plotters decided to blow up the House of Lords during its opening ceremony on this day in 1605. So they bought a whole bunch of gunpowder—to be exact, 36 barrels of it!—and they stored it beneath the House of Lords. That was enough explosives to bring the House of Lords down to rubble! I guess more than one guy would have been murdered, if they'd succeeded.
Luckily, they didn't succeed. Instead, an anonymous tip warned the one guy in the House of Lords, and that guy warned the rest of the government; a search was made and the explosives discovered.
That night, the people of England celebrated the fact that their king WASN'T assassinated by lighting bonfires. There is a long and colorful (yet upsetting) history of how the celebrations continued and changed, over the years, but these days Guy Fawkes Day (really, night) is celebrated in non-violent ways with bonfires and fireworks shows.
But...you may ask why it's called “Guy Fawkes Day.” Who was this Guy Fawkes guy? Was he the sheriff who foiled the plot? The tipster that prevented the tragedy? An average soldier who acted bravely to save his king?
|Fawkes being arrested|
No. Guy Fawkes was the guy the plotters had stand watch over the explo-sives. He was one of the would-be killers, and he and the other plotters were arrested and executed in a gruesome manner.
|An effigy of Fawkes|
Back in 1605, as people celebrated with their bonfires, some of them burned Guy Fawkes “in effigy” in the bonfires. That means that they created a 3-D human form out of burnable stuff, like cloth. They called the form “Guy Fawkes” and threw it into the fire and cheered as the inanimate doll-like form burned up. (It is a bit bloodthirsty to burn an effigy, don't you think?) It was the use of these Guy Fawkes forms that gave the holiday its name.
Here is a short video that retells what Guy Fawkes Day is all about and how it is celebrated – in just a couple of minutes.