Five Things You Should Know about Guy Fawkes Day
Guy Fawkes was a terrorist.
Guy Fawkes was one of a group of terrorists who plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament on Nov. 5, 1605. The plan, known as the “Gunpowder Plot,” was discovered the day before. The reasons behind the plot are suspected to be religious in origin, although historians don’t agree on whether the terrorists were acting to re-establish Catholicism or to reinforce the Protestants in power.
Bonfires with images or representatives of the terrorist conspirators are burned on Guy Fawkes Day.
Although Guy Fawkes was not the lead conspirator, and is thought to be only one of thirteen plotters, he was found with 36 barrels of gunpowder below the Houses of Parliament. Bonfires were lit on Nov. 5, 1605, to celebrate the safety of the King. They are still lit today on Bonfire Night.
Often, masks or scarecrow-like images (called “Guys”) that represent the conspirators are thrown on the top of the bonfire before it is lit to commemorate the capture, torture, and execution of Guy Fawkes and the other conspirators.
Fireworks play a big part of the Guy Fawkes celebration.
In a tradition somewhat like the American Halloween, children make images of Guy Fawkes (and sometimes modern politicians), called “Guys,” and take them around the streets or the neighborhoods in which they live. They show these Guys to people and ask them for “a penny for the Guy.” They then use this money to buy fireworks.
Guy Fawkes masks are a modern addition to the celebration.
Although masks and images of Guy Fawkes have been part of the celebration for hundreds of years, the masks most people recognize as a Guy Fawkes didn’t become popular until the early 1980s. Prior to that, masks were made of cardboard and sold to children, and they were being replaced by Halloween masks.
The modern mask, featuring a smirky grin, was created by David Lloyd for V for Vendetta and has since become a symbol of political protest — not just of Guy Fawkes.
Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night is celebrated outside of Britain.
When the British established their colonies in the Americas and throughout the world, those colonists continued to celebrate Bonfire Night. Today, in places like New Zealand and Canada, Bonfire Night is still celebrated on November 5.