More Shark Guides
Guy Fawkes Night
Guy Fawkes Night has many names: Guy Fawkes Day, Bonfire Night, Gunpowder Treason Day, and Firework Night. This fall event occurs annually on November 5 in England, since November 5, 1605, when Guy Fawkes was arrested guarding explosives as part of the Gunpowder Plot to attack the House of Lords and kill King James I. To celebrate the successful failure of the plot, November 5 was declared a public day of thanksgiving, enforced by the Observance of 5th November Act, also known as the “Thanksgiving Act” in 1606. The King's council allowed groups to people to gather over bonfires to commemorate the day and celebrate the failed attempt on their King's life.
Over time, Guy Fawkes Day drew anti-Catholic views and political undertones. The day became one of disorderly celebrations and public burnings of sculptres of well known figures such as the Pope. By the end of the 18th century, it was popular for children to mark the day walking the streets asking for money with statues of Guy Fawkes, hence reinforcing the name of Guy Fawkes Day.
For a long time, Guy Fawkes Day was a bipartisan event, dividing Catholics and Protestants and fueling much of the religious tensions of the time that often led to violent events and small rebellions. It wasn't until the mid 19th century that the violent nature of this day had been toned down and the anti-Catholic sentiments were less prominent. Attitudes changed in the 1850s, which toned down a lot of of the day's anti-Catholic sentiments, and in 1859 the original 1606 legislation of the Observance of the 5th November Act was repealed.
Finally, by the dawn of the 20th century, Guy Fawkes Day took on a more festive approach, resembling the modern day social event it is today. Guy Fawkes Day in recent years is marked by bonfires, fireworks, festivals, and other traditional fare.
The Gunpowder Plot
A group of English Catholics plotted to kill King James I, a Protestant, with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. They hoped to replace King James with a Catholic head of state. The plan was foiled when Guy Fawkes was arrested. Fawkes had been guarding explosives that were placed underneath the House of Lords. Fawkes, in addition to the surviving members of the Gunpowder Plot were executed shortly before the Observance of 5th November Act was passed in January 1606.
The act, which was proposed by Edward Montagu, a Puritan, theoretically required everyone attend Church during this day, to acknowledge the divine intervention that spared the King's life. The church also had a new religious service added to the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer to mark this event.
Guy Fawkes Night, as it is also called, was celebrated overseas as well, in many British colonies. In North America, the day was known as Pope Day, and was discontinued with the American Revolution. Some argue that the event was still recognised in the Commonwealth areas, as a Protestant replacement for the Celtic and Nordic festival of Samhain. Samhain was a pagan event that was eventually folded into the church and turned into All Hallow's Even, or Halloween.
Some experts draw similarities between Guy Fawkes Day and the Hindu festival of lights known as Diwali, which is observed sometime in mid-October to early November. This day is a very important part of London History.
Modern Day Guy Fawkes Celebrations
More recently, November 5 events consist of fireworks and positive fun, with events organised by charities and volunteer groups. These celebrations really give tourists insight into London culture. The original anti-Catholic sentiments are few and far between. Some still throw effigies of Guy Fawkes, the Pope, and other popular figures, into the fire in a symbolic gesture.