November 5, or Guy Fawkes Night, is when British people remember the failed “Gunpowder Plot” to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.
Every November, British people light bonfires and set off fireworks to remember the day when the Houses of Parliament, and King James I, were almost blown up by terrorists. In a rather ghoulish tradition, children make “guys”: effigies of the man who came to symbolise the Catholic “Gunpowder Plot”, to burn on the bonfires. The plot was actually led by an aristocrat, Robert Catesby, not Fawkes, a lowly soldier who happened to be the one caught with the 36 barrels of gunpowder.
But Guy Fawkes is the one who is remembered, not only in the Bonfire Night tradition which is still going strong, but also as the face of the Anonymous and Occupy protest movements. Occupy now traditionally holds demonstrations on 5 November.
He is also mentioned probably every minute around the world: the ubiquitious word for a man or even person, “guy”, derives from Guy Fawkes’ name.
A children’s rhyme says:
Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
The British have very long memories. Not only is Guy Fawkes night celebrated every November, but, to this day, when the Queen attends the Palace of Westminster for the annual State Opening of Parliament, Yeomen of the Guard (Beefeaters) ritually search the cellars of the building to check there are no barrels of gunpowder!
All photos: DR