Remember, Remember the 5th of November

18:03 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

One of the best parts about living overseas is learning about new customs and cultures. While the English culture is more closely aligned with American culture than Turkey, there are still some differences you stumble upon.

Vernacular (e.g. pants v. trousers, chips v. fries). Holidays (they take them, we don't). Mushy peas, clotted cream & pies (not the sweet kind).

Right now, one of those odd cultural occurrences is taking place. Guy Fawkes Day is widely celebrated throughout the UK on the 5th of November. I didn't know about it last year til the fireworks went off, then read about it and said oh, like V for Vendetta since nearly everything can be related to a movie.

This year, I decided to learn a little bit more about the holiday so I can celebrate it properly!

Its celebration spans all the way back to 1605 and Guy Fawkes gunfire plot. This is where 13 men plotted to kill King James I and blow up Parliament. A lot of the plot was around religion, part of the ongoing battle between Protestants and Catholics that began when Henry VIII originally brought Protestant religion to England (just so he could divorce his wife). Still in James' times, Protestant religion ruled, making these Catholic plotters angry, especially after James persecuted some Catholics in what was seen to be for his political advantage.The whole plot was foiled when the plotters warned their fellow Catholics not to be in Parliament that day, and later Guy Fawkes was found hiding below the building in a room full with gunpowder (hence the name the Gunpowder Plot), and the matches to ignite the whole thing.

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So why is this even celebrated still today? Sure, celebrate at the time, but it seems to me like an odd choice of an going holiday - 'hey, we almost got blown to bits, but didn't, so hooray!'

Following the failed attack, an act of Parliament was passed setting the date as a day of thanksgiving for the "joyful deliverance of James I." This act remained in place for over 250 years, until 1859. So perhaps out of habit, the holiday is still celebrated today and the event is remembered, as Yeomen still search the building upon the opening of Parliament for any modern day Fawkes.

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Today the date is celebrated not with bonfires to burn Guy (at least that I've seen), but with lots and lots of fireworks.  This year, they started the weekend prior, and will probably continue to the following weekend.  And I don't blame them, without the 4th of July to celebrate, everyone needs a good national holiday for fireworks!

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