Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Remember Remember The Fifth of November

Remember, Remember, The Fifth of November

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

A night of fireworks, bonfires, burning guys and burnt sausages. Guy Fawkes' Night is a quintessentially English celebration which has spread to her colonies across the world.

On 5th November 1605, in protest against England's persecution of the Catholic faith, thirteen men plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London, hopefully killing the King - the newly-crowned James I - and the members of parliament who opposed the open practice of Catholicism.

The plot was foiled at the last minute. One of the men, Guy Fawkes, caught in the cellars with several barrels of gunpowder, was tortured and executed. The other conspirators were also rounded up and killed.

That night, in celebration of the King's deliverance, bonfires were lit across the country. The tradition has held over the last 400 years, and still we light bonfires and  burn an effigy of a man known as a 'guy.'

Although a relatively recent festival, the reason for its continued popularity through the years is thought to be linked to the festival of Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival held on 31st October. This was a fire festival marking the coming of winter, when animals were slaughtered and feasts held.

Around the time of James I, the survivals of the old Pagan celebrations were being forcefully stamped out. It was a very dangerous time to be accused of practising any religion other than the denomination of Christianity favoured by the current monarch.

So Samhain, still stubbornly celebrated by many country folk, simply moved forward a few days, under the guise of enthusiastically and patriotically celebrating the long reign of the king.

For more about Samhain, check out this post: