Lifestyle: The British celebrate a foiled assassination plot every year by lighting bonfires and burning an effigy named 'Guy' — here's why

The annual Lewes Bonfire Night parade

Bonfire Night is a tradition that sees Brits come together every November 5 to burn an effigy and set off fireworks, and the reason dates back hundreds of years.

  • On November 5 every year, Brits celebrate Bonfire Night.
  • People gather together outside to burn an effigy on a huge bonfire, set off fireworks, and eat seasonal treats.
  • The annual celebration commemorates the events of November 5, 1605, when Roman Catholic activist Guy Fawkes attempted to assassinate the king.

"Remember, remember the 5th of November. Gunpowder, treason, and plot."

It's a saying that will be familiar to most Brits, but one that is likely to raise eyebrows outside of the UK.

The rhyme refers to Bonfire Night — an annual celebration which takes place on, you guessed it, November 5, and sees Brits wrap up warm and venture to parks and fields to gather around a large bonfire, burn an effigy, set off fireworks, and eat seasonal treats.

And just what are we celebrating? An assassination attempt on the king over 400 years ago, of course.

It's a particularly British tradition, but for many, Bonfire Night is one of the highlights of the season. Here's what it's all about.

The history behind Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night is a celebration of the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 — an assassination attempt on the then new Protestant King James I.

The plot was the work of a gang of Roman Catholic activists, led by Robert Catesby, who were angry about not being allowed to practice their religion in the UK, and hopeful that the end of Queen Elizabeth I's reign would result in more favourable conditions for them.

But this was not to be the case.

Disappointed by the new king's lack of support of British Catholics, Catesby and his gang hatched a plot to assassinate the monarch and his ministers by blowing up the Houses of Parliament, according to the BBC.

Read more: How Autumn is celebrated around the world

It was explosive expert Guy (Guido) Fawkes who was tasked with smuggling 36 barrels of gunpowder into the cellar of the House of Lords, with the aim of destroying the whole building.

However, the plot unravelled just a few hours before the gunpowder was set to be lit when a Catholic Lord received a letter warning him to avoid Parliament.

The letter sent to William Parker, the 4th Baron Monteagle, was made public and Fawkes was arrested and tried for treason, according to The Telegraph.

In the aftermath of the event, Parliament declared November 5 a day of thanksgiving, and the first celebration to mark the failed plot was held in 1606.

How is Bonfire Night celebrated?

On November 5 (or the nearest weekend if the date falls on a weekday), Brits come together to celebrate. Some gather in their gardens, and others join large public displays in parks and fields, which usually have a small entry fee.

Every celebration centres on a large bonfire featuring an effigy which is known as the Guy (after Guy Fawkes).

However, the Guy is often created in the image of someone in the public eye — last year both Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump were incarnated as effigies for Bonfire Night.

Traditionally, the Guy is carried through the streets of a village or town as part of a parade in the days leading up to the big night.

The other main part of the celebration is the firework display — they represent the explosives that were never let off in the assassination attempt.

During the first week of November, it's difficult to walk through UK towns and cities without spotting fireworks sparkling down from the sky somewhere around you.

While watching the show, children and adults alike add to the dazzling display by holding sparklers and creating glittering, swirly shapes in the air in front of them.

Of course, it's usually very chilly so as well as wrapping up in coats, scarfs, hats, and gloves, sustenance is of the utmost importance.

Traditional Bonfire Night treats include toffee apples, baked potatoes, and Parkin, which is a sticky, spiced cake made from treacle, oats, syrup and ginger.

There's only one place in the UK where Bonfire Night isn't celebrated, and that's St Peter's School in York, where Fawkes was a pupil — as a sign of respect, the day goes unmarked.

Source: BUSINESS INSIDER

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