November 5: Guy Fawkes Night

Guy Fawkes Night Fireworks; image credit KSDigital at’ve been writing a daily holiday post for almost two years now. According to my wordpress stats, this is my 685th post (there are a handful of days I did two for). I think I can safely say that most holidays celebrate a great victory or other event, great cause, great person, or a great thing (like National Cheese Pizza Day or National Chess Day). Today’s holiday does celebrate a great event . . . sort of:

James_I,_VI_by_John_de_Critz,_c.1606.On November 5, 1605, the entire government of England did NOT get blown up.

Personally, I really do think that’s a great thing, but it’s not the sort of thing I would normally celebrate. Instead, I would tend to expect it, and we don’t usually celebrate what we take for granted. But England is different. Every year on November 5 they party – bonfires, fireworks, and, my personal favorite, burning Guy Fawkes in effigy. 🙂

Princess Elizabeth (Elizabeth of Bohemia, 'The Winter Queen'), 1596–1662, aged seven, by Robert Peake the elderFor a better explanation of what happened in 1605, see last year’s post on Guy Fawkes Day, but here’s your quick history: Several men secretly placed 36 barrels of gunpowder (enough to destroy the building and probably kill everyone inside) in the basements of the English parliament building, underneath the House of Lords. On November 5, King James was expected to officially open Parliament. Much of England’s royalty would be present. With them out of the way, the conspirators planned to replace King James with his young daughter, princess Elizabeth. 

Guy_Fawkes_in_Ordsall_Cave by George CruikshankThe plot probably would have succeeded, except that one of the conspirators  warned a friend to avoid the opening. This prompted a thorough search of the building, where the authorities found Guy Fawkes guarding the gunpowder shortly after midnight on November 5. The conspirators fled, but were soon caught and publicly, violently, executed.

“A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion;
those who anger him forfeit their lives.”

Proverbs 20:2


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