Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bonfire Day

Ian, an English friend of mine that I met in Egypt taught me about Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night. According to Ian, they do all sorts of things for the day/evening. They eat treacle. They play with Catherine Wheels (a sort of fireworks named after the torture racks (stretching) in the Tower of London). They carry around models or effigies of Guy and go around begging saying, "Penny for Guy." They then use the money they get to buy fireworks, and then burn the effigies in bonfires.

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?
Burn him!

November 5th, 1605, Guy Fawkes and 12 other men planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament, but their plan was foiled when a letter sent to a friend of one of the men warning him to stay away that night, made its way to the King. Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellar with the 36 barrels of gunpowder.

The Gunpowder Plot:
After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had been persecuted under her rule had hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of their religion. James I had, after all, had a Catholic mother. Unfortunately, James did not turn out to be more tolerant than Elizabeth and a number of young men, 13 to be exact, decided that violent action was the answer.
On the very night that the Gunpowder Plot was foiled, on November 5th, 1605, bonfires were set alight to celebrate the safety of the King. Since then, November 5th has become known as Bonfire Night. The event is commemorated every year with fireworks and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.
Some of the English have been known to wonder, in a tongue in cheek kind of way, whether they are celebrating Fawkes' execution or honoring his attempt to do away with the government.

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