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Why do we celebrate Guy Fawkes Night?

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Tonight is the night when the skies of Britain will be lit up with bonfires, fireworks and sparklers to mark Guy Fawkes night. This is in remembrance of the failed “Gunpowder Plot” to blow up King James I on November 5th, 1605.

King James was a Protestant and became King in 1603 who ruled over England and Scotland. In an effort to get rid of Catholicism, Catholics were exiled which was much more merciful than the previous successors who often executed them.

There were 13 Catholics though that created the "Gunpowder Plot". The goal was to kill the King along with his senior ministers while they were in the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament on November 5, 1605. Robert Catesby had the idea and had the intention of creating a Catholic Monarch, but first they had to take the current one out.

While Guy Fawkes was not the leader of the group, he was the first one to get caught while guarding the 36 barrels of gunpowder underneath the House of Lords in a rented cellar. He was also the one in charge of lighting the fuse.

Eventually while he was being tortured, he gave up the names of his co-conspirators who all were executed, including Guy Fawkes who jumped off scaffolding to his death to avoid the alternative option which was to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. He was still quartered after he broke his neck from the fall.

In celebration of the King not being assassinated “An Act for a Public Thanksgiving to Almighty God every Year on the Fifth of November” was passed. This came to be known as the “Thanksgiving Act”. Citizens were strongly encouraged to attend special church services and light bonfires to celebrate Guy Fawkes’ failure. All places celebrated it except for St. Peter’s School in York where Guy Fawkes had attended school.

The act remained until 1859, but by that time this tradition was ingrained in the culture and still is celebrated today with food markets, fireworks, bonfires, music, burning of Guy Fawkes effigies and much more.

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