Guy Fawkes Day

Remember, remember the 5th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

 You may not know it, but today is actually a holiday in England.  It’s not a ‘time off work’ type of holiday, but it is a day filled with different traditions and events that are a part of English history.

During my first experience of this holiday when I was still getting used to certain dialects, I was sure it was called Guy Forks Day, but strenuous Google research soon revealed that this holiday is actually called Guy Fawkes Day (said: Fox).  My initial impression, since the day is named after him, was that Guy Fawkes did something incredibly heroic and noteworthy in British history so a day was set aside to honour him, kind of like how we Americans have Martin Luther King Day or how we recognize Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  Guy Fawkes must have been an admirable man of noble character, I thought, but the poem goes on….

Guy Fawkes, guy, t’was his intent
To blow up king and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England’s overthrow.

 Guy Fawkes was a terrorist!  Those Brits have named the day after a terrorist!  America doesn’t call it John Wilkes Booth Day.  But so it is and “The Guy,” in 1605, heaved a buttload of gunpowder under Parliament in an attempt to blow it up and kill the king because his crew wanted to replace him with a Catholic king. (Doesn’t seem like a brilliantly thought through plan, does it? I mean how does one start that conversation post explosion.  “So here’s a crazy idea….!”)  And so we continue with the story….

By God’s mercy he was catch’d
With a darkened lantern and burning match.
So, holler boys, holler boys, Let the bells ring.
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the king.

 I feel a bit sorry for The Guy because clearly with 36 barrels of gunpowder placed under Parliament he wasn’t in on it alone, but he’s the one that goes down in history as the big, fat traitor.  And how do the Brits celebrate this plot that, if successful, would have significantly altered their history….

And what shall we do with him?
Burn him!

They burn effigies of him on bonfires.  EFFIGIES!  That’s right.  They throw a lumpy, stuffed Guy Fawkes dummy onto a raging bonfire and glory in the scumbag’s death, hence the holiday’s other name: Bonfire Night.

Brilliant.

The lovely thing is that many places and people set off fireworks and in the area where we live, carnivals are put on with intricately decorated floats parading through the towns.  The Duchess, the Native and I were meant to be going to a carnival in the Southwest tonight, but due to the tragic incident yesterday on the M5, understandably, it has been cancelled so we have instead had a quiet night in.  I can’t, however, wait until next year when I get to help The Duchess make her first effigy.  What a lovely mother/daughter moment.

Spirit of the Blitz Float: photo via coventrysteve at flickr.com

Note: A friend lightheartedly pointed out that Brits do not say it as ‘Fox.’  Completely true, as Brits have a vowel sound not found in American words.  But since the sound isn’t in the American dialect, the closest equivalent would be Fox or Falkes or like Forks if you were someone who struggled with saying your r’s like Sister when she was growing up.  

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