Celebrate Guy Fawkes Night with fireworks in London

Guy Fawkes Night is an important national holiday in that falls on November 5 each year. The day commemorates the anniversary of the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a conspiracy to assassinate the king and English parliament. For individuals living in the U.K. and British citizens abroad, this is a joyful community holiday that is fun and patriotic for children and adults.

In 1605, a group of provincial Catholics led by Robert Catesby were caught storing explosives beneath the House of Lords. This band of traitors disliked the current monarch, King James I, because he was intolerant of their religion. By blowing up the Parliament building on its first day in session, Catesby and his accomplices hoped to spark a revolution that would put Princess Elizabeth, James’ daughter, in the throne as a Catholic regent.

November 5 is called Guy Fawkes Night because he was the man the authorities caught first. Fawkes had been guarding the 36 barrels of gunpowder that the rebels planned to use to blow up the House of Lords when police became aware of the plot through an anonymous letter.

In January 1606, a few months after the individuals behind the Gunpowder Plot were caught, the Parliament passed the Observance of 5th November Act 1605. This legal action installed Guy Fawkes Night on the national calendar and made it an important part of Great Britain’s yearly celebrations. However, although the holiday is now a festive and light-hearted occasion, the day was most predominantly commemorated with church services, sermons and prayers until the mid-19th century.

Today, citizens in Great Britain set off fireworks and build giant bonfires on Guy Fawkes Day to celebrate this important historical occasion. During the weeks leading up to the holiday, children often make effigies of Fawkes, which are called “guys,” in school, which they later set aflame at the 5th of November celebrations. This has long been a popular custom in England that remains in place today.

While many families or individuals put on their own displays of fireworks, most citizens attend large public shows in town or city centers. In particular, Sussex is known for its spectacular celebration, in which elaborate parades, giant fires and musical performances are organized by locale bonfire societies.

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