Guy Fawkes Day has a certain cachet in my family.
Not because any of us grew up with the English tradition or are particularly interested in gunpowder, treason, or pyrotechnics (although, I do love a good bonfire, if I am to be honest), but because “Remember, remember the fifth of November” is a very useful ditty for remembering my parents’ anniversary.
Seriously. Without that rhyme, I would probably have to Google “Guy Fawkes Day” every year in order to determine whether my parents’ anniversary is the 4th, 5th, or 6th of November. I know it is in there somewhere, but you know, I wasn’t there when the party went down, so I really cannot be expected to keep track of the date with 100% accuracy. Without Guy Fawkes Day, I would utterly lost.
Long history story short: On November 5, 1605 a band of English Catholics attempted to blow up parliament in an effort to depose protestant King James I, hoping to replace him with a Catholic sovereign. Guy Fawkes was discovered guarding a cache of explosives beneath the House of Lords—hence, The Gunpowder Plot. Fawkes later confessed the details of the plot under torture and was sentenced to a gruesome death, which he avoid by jumping from the hanging scaffold and breaking his neck neatly. The foiling of the plot and the survival of James I was celebrated with bonfires. An official act was passed the following year, establishing the anniversary of the event as a holiday.
You may be familiar with the idea of a Guy Fawkes effigy being burned as part of the night’s revelry. Children’s used to build their own scarecrow-like Guy in advance, and beg money to go towards a fireworks fund for the night of the fifth.
So… even though apparently a massive bonfires and faux-burning are now generally frowned upon, as are non-municipal fireworks and begging for pennies to fund them… well, maybe you can light some sparklers or something. Dig out a creepy V is for Vendetta Fawkes mask and get festive tonight. Just don’t put out anyone’s eye.