Why do we celebrate Bonfire Night / Guy Fawkes Night?
History of Guy Fawkes Night / Bonfire Night
Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night is an annual celebration on the 5th of November.
The date marks the anniversary of the failed Gunpowder Plot on 5th November 1605, in which a number of Catholic conspirators, attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London.
Led by Guy Fawkes, the conspirators planned to kill King James I and wipe out the government in an attempt to return England to the Catholic faith.
A letter from one of the conspirators to a friend in the Houses of Parliament warning him to stay away was intercepted, alerting the authorities to the plot. As a result, a number of conspirators who had placed 36 barrels of gunpowder in cellars under the Houses of Parliament were found before they could set off the deadly charges. They were arrested, as were many of their fellow conspirators, tortured and executed.
How is Guy Fawkes / Bonfire Night Celebrated?
Bonfire Night is primarily marked in the UK. Until 1859, it was in fact compulsory to celebrate the deliverance of the King of Great Britain.
Public and private bonfire night celebrations are held in towns and villages across the UK. Typically, celebrations involve the setting off of fireworks and the building and lighting of bonfires on which "Guys" (effigies of Guy Fawkes) are burnt.
Traditionally, in the run-up to Bonfire Night, children would go from door to door requesting a "penny for the guy" in order to raise money to buy fireworks with. This tradition is no longer practised as much as it used to, largely for concerns over the safety of kids going door-to-door, changes in legislation stopping minors from buying fireworks and also as the practice can be seen as begging.
More info on the history of the Gunpowder plot
If you want more detail on the history of why we celebrate Bonfire Night, here's an excellent article on the Gunpowder Plot on the UK Parliament website
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