Remember, remember the 5th of November: Guy Fawkes’ Day

For all of you who aren’t familiar with English history/culture, today is Guy Fawkes’ Day!  Guy Fawkes’ day is a celebration held in England for hundreds of years to commemorate the failed Gun Powder Plot of 1605.  A group of Catholics devised a plot to blow up the Parliament, killing King James, in order to put a Catholic  on the throne.  However their plot was foiled just mere hours before completion. Guy Fawkes’, a member of the plot, was discovered on November 4th hiding in along with 36 barrels of gun powder in the Palace of Westminster (where Parliament and the King were meeting the following morning.)  Fawkes was captured and tortured for two days before signing two confessions. The first confession (seen below) has frequently been questioned by historians due to the nature it was given.  You can see from the that Fawkes’ signature is both faint and extremely shakey.  You can get a close up view at the National Archives’ website.

Guy Fawkes' 1st Confession

Despite neither being the ring leader or mastermind behind the plot, Guy Fawkes’ name has become synonymous with the Gun Powder Plot and thus, every November 5th, people across England burn effigies of Guy Fawkes. Most memorably, the small town of Ottery St. Mary holds a special celebration of Guy Fawkes’ day.  Every November 5th they have a race/competition in which people run through the streets of the town carrying flaming barrels of tar.  I was fortunate enough to go to one of these celebrations a few years ago.  Below I’ve attached some photos from the event.  Oh, did I mention the race takes place in a crowd of hundreds of people? Only in England!

Ottery St. Mary Tar Barrels Ottery St. Mary Tar Barrels Ottery St. Mary Tar Barrels Ottery St. Mary Tar Barrels


Note: “Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gun Powder Treason and Plot” is a popular song/rhyme commemorating Guy Fawkes. According to Ronald Hutton (author of The stations of the sun: a history of the ritual year in Britain2001), the earliset recording of any song about Guy Fawkes is 1742 (page 514.)

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