Guy Fawkes Night

Guy Fawkes was part of an attempt to assassinate King James I, a Protestant, and return a Catholic monarch to leadership of England. Fawkes and his coconspirators hoped to replace him with Princess Elizabeth, later Queen of Bohemia, who they intended to kidnap. She was third in the line of succession and nine years old at the time. The plan became known as the Gunpowder Plot.

Fawkes was guarding gunpowder for the explosives in a cellar beneath the House of Lords on November 5, 1605. An anonymous letter to authorities resulted in the search of Westminster Palace and the discovery of Fawkes guarding the room. After torture, Fawkes confessed to the plot. Set to be hung, Fawkes leaped from the ladder leading to the platform before his execution and broke his neck.

Guy Fawkes Night has been celebrated in England on November 5th since he was caught in 1605. It is also known as Bonfire Night because people lit bonfires around England to celebrate the survival of King James I. Fireworks were also used to celebrate. While it became an official English holiday, it also became a time of tension between Protestants and Catholics. Effigies of the Pope and Guy Fawkes were burned.

Anonymous at Scientology in Los Angeles

How does this relate to Halloween?

Children of working class families would go from door to door asking wealthier neighbors to contribute materials, money, food and drink for their bonfire celebration. They would often sing as they went from door to door.

On the effigy, a mask depicting Guy Fawkes would be placed. The children would take the effigy from door to door as they begged for money.

Guy Fawkes Night would be exported to North America as Pope Day, where youth and the lower class would go from house to house collecting money for the festivities. Wealthier families did not think it safe to refuse to give money for the bonfire and effigy of the Pope. If they did not pay, the children would destroy their windows or otherwise damage their home.

November 4th would eventually become Mischief Night, as children played pranks around town. It would be considered the equivalent of modern day Devil’s Night in the United States.

So as you can see, the Guy Fawkes celebration has numerous similarities to Halloween. A masked figure taken door to door demanding payment instead of tricks. It is straight from the modern Halloween playbook.

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