What does Guy Fawkes Day mean to those in the United Kingdom

Evelyn Krupicka, Correspondent

Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated in the United Kingdom every November 5 on the anniversary of Guy Fawkes and a group of conspirator’s failed attempt to blow up Parliament. 

Previously known as the “Gunpowder Treason Day,” Guy Fawkes Day commemorates the failed Gunpowder Plot. The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was a conspiracy to assassinate the Protestant King James I, along with members of Parliament, and replace King James I with a Catholic king. Guy Fawkes, one of the Catholic conspirators, was caught on November 5, 1605, guarding a store of explosives underneath the House of Lords, a division of the English Parliament. He and his co-conspirators were found and executed for treason. That year the public was allowed to celebrate the king’s survival with bonfires. In the following January, the Parliament passed the “Thanksgiving Act” which made the celebration and church attendance mandatory on November 5. 

In remembrance of the failed plot, each year on November 5th people in the UK host parades, set off fireworks, and celebrate around large bonfires. They often set fire to straw figures of Guy Fawkes and sing songs. In the moors northeast of Oxford in 1903, one such song from was recorded at Charlton on Otmoor. The song goes: 

“The fifth of November, since I can remember,

Was Guy Fawkes, Poke him in the eye,

Shove him up the chimney-pot, and there let him die.

A stick and a stake, for King George’s sake,

If you don’t give me one, I’ll take two,

The better for me, and the worse for you,

Ricket-a-racket your hedges shall go.”

Probably the most recognizable tradition for this holiday is the wearing of a Guy Fawkes mask. The mask is notable for its pale white face, rosy red cheeks, and a long goatee and mustache. The hacktivist community “Anonymous” recently popularized the mask during their protests against the Church of Scientology and the Occupy Movement. Hacktivism is a way people protest online, often through displaying messages on the websites that they are protesting. Some Guy Fawkes Day revelers wear the mask because they view him as a revolutionary. 

While Guy Fawkes Day isn’t as widely celebrated in America, Guy Fawkes Day is a large and exciting holiday for people in the United Kingdom.