Why Do We Celebrate Bonfire Night?

bonefireThe history of Bonfire Night is commemorated every 5th of November. It is marked by colorful explosions and of course, several bonfires. It is a celebration of the foiled attempt by Guy Fawkes to destroy Parliament.

Background Information

When King James ascended to the throne, English Catholics hoped that the religious policy would change. Under Queen Elizabeth I, the Catholics were forbidden to practice their religious belief. However, King James I didn’t repeal any of these laws. If anything, things just got worse.

Not only were they still forbidden to practice their belief, but penalties were imposed on people who didn’t attend Protestant sermons. What made it worse was that King James was the son of Mary, Queen of the Scots and a devout Catholic.

Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot

The history of Bonfire Night began in 1605. A group of Catholics led by Robert Catesby devised a plot to kill the king. They would plant explosives in the House of Parliament. One of the men with him was Guy Fawkes.

The first thing they did was to purchase a house near Parliament. There they modified the cellar so it was connected to the Parliament building itself. The plot was to place some gunpowder there. When the King arrived they would blow it up.

The Discovery of the Plot

It was Guy Fawkes who was given the task of watching over the gunpowder. Kept in barrels, he was supposed to light them up. On November 5 however, some soldiers on patrol saw him hiding in the cellar. The history of Bonfire Night would change forever.

Not only was his presence suspicious, but there was gun powder all over him. The soldiers became suspicious. He was taken prisoner. Under torture, Fawkes eventually admitted the whole plot. He also named the other people involved.

The King was duly informed. Thankful for the discovery, he decreed that every 5th of November a celebration be held. It would consist of lighting bonfires.

Besides the usual patrolling, there was another reason why Guy Fawkes was discovered. There was a leak in their camp. It was Francis Tresham who helped alter the history of Bonfire Night.

After Catesby and Fawkes devised the plan, Tresham sent a message to Lord Monteagle. Because he was Tresham’s brother in law, Tresham felt he had to warn him. Monteagle went on to inform the other
members of Parliament.

The result was that more soldiers were on guard. As they patrolled the area, they eventually came upon Guy Fawkes.

The Celebration Today

Today the event is marked by colorful fireworks. It is also noted for the burning of various effigies. In Britain it is accompanied by the singing of various hymns including God Save the Queen. Today it is also observed in other parts of the world, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The history of Bonfire Night is marked today by revelry. Although its origin lay in the attempted violent overthrow of a king, it has become an occasion for fun.

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