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I used to know a guy

A look at the origins of firework night and how it has changed.

On the 5th of November people all over England will spend the night setting off rockets and fireworks and lighting bonfires. This celebration is commonly called Fireworks Night or Bonfire Night, but it had another name before either of these; Guy Fawkes’ Night.

So, why do the English celebrate Guy Fawkes’ Night? To commemorate the day on which The Gunpowder Plot was foiled.
 
What was The Gunpowder Plot? In 1605, thirteen men planned to blow up the houses of Parliament in order to kill the King of England.

Why did they fail? One of the men sent a letter to his friend telling him about the plan. The king got the letter and made his own plans to stop the plot.

So, who is Guy Fawkes? Guy Fawkes was one of the thirteen men who planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament. He was caught in the cellar of the Houses of Parliament with 36 barrels of dynamite.

Why do people start bonfires? When the people of England found out that a plot to kill their king had been foiled, they lit fires to celebrate.

What other things do people do? It used to be very common to put a doll on the fire called ‘The Guy’. This was to represent Guy Fawkes being punished for trying to kill the king. The tradition of starting fires is still followed today, although it is very rare that people burn ‘A Guy’ and people have added some other things, like fireworks, to the occasion.

Key Vocabulary

Phrase Meaning
To commemorate   To honour/celebrate a memory or event in the past  
A plot A secret plan to do something (often used in a negative way)
To blow up [phrasal verb]  To make something explode
To foil something To prevent a plan being completed
A cellar A room or space used for storage, usually underground or under a building.                   
To find out [phrasal verb]                     To discover
Dynamite A material that will explode if set on fire
A doll A child’s toy that looks like a human
To punish To do something unpleasant to someone because they have done something bad
A tradition A thought or behaviour followed by people for a very long time   
Rare It is very uncommon

To find out more you can click here. (See if you can find out what the rhyme that is linked with Guy Fawkes’ Night is!)