On the eve of the 5th of November, the people in the UK go out onto the streets to light a bonfire and burn an effigy of ‘Guy Fawkes’. This is followed by the setting off of magnificent fireworks to celebrate.
But, the question is, why do they celebrate?
‘Guy Fawkes Night’ originated in 1605, after the so-called ‘Gunpowder Plot’. At that time in British history, the ruler of the Kingdom changed after Queen Elizabeth I. died and King James I. became the new King. The country was split by religion, and the Catholics had hoped that with the new King their lives would become easier – but things didn’t quite work out that way. Thirteen men were especially frustrated with the situation and resorted to using violence. Under Robert Catesby, they came up with a plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill the King in doing so.
On the night of the 5th of November, they managed to sneak thirty-six old wooden barrels of gunpowder into a cellar beneath the houses of Lords. Guy Fawkes was the person in charge of guarding them.
Even today there are still some mysteries surrounding this event, such as a rumoured letter from one of the men involved in the plot to his friend, warning him not to go to parliament on that day. The letter was forwarded to the King, and he ordered a thorough search of the whole building. Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellar with the gunpowder and arrested that night. He was later interrogated and executed with the other twelve revolters who plotted against the King.
On that night, the 5th of November 1605, the English people lit bonfires to celebrate that the King was well and had survived the gunpowder plot.
This tradition is continued to this day and is called ‘Guy Fawkes Night’ or ‘Bonfire Night’. An interesting fact is that the effigy of Guy Fawkes is burned annually in bonfires all over the UK, except in York where the community refuses to celebrate Bonfire night – because Guy Fawkes went to school there, the people of York thought it would be inappropriate.
If you’re living abroad in the UK, be mindful of Guy Fawkes Night as it is really important to a lot of English citizens. On the night you can expect to see fireworks light up the sky and great roaring bonfires in every city and village across the country.
Written by Jana Dorozala from EF Academy Torbay
There’s a lot you can find out about English traditions online, but what better way to immerse yourself in a new culture than through studying abroad?