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November 5: Guy Fawkes Night

Tonight is Guy Fawkes Night. It’s an English thing. It’s sort of like their Halloween, because kids walk around with dummies made up to look like Mr. Fawkes and say, “Penny for the Guy?” Except, of course, they want more than a penny. Later the kids throw their dummies on a bonfire around which their dads and uncles get roaring drunk. Anyway, that’s how I remember it. So what’s behind it all? Well, Guy and 12 co-conspirators were responsible for the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the House of Lords while King James the First was inside giving a speech. Guy wasn’t in charge of the plot, but he was in charge of the explosives, which is probably why the night is named after him instead of ringleader Robert Catesby. And why it’s his face on all those weirdly-smiling masks people were wearing for awhile. They tortured a confession out of Guy, then hung him, then chopped him in four pieces, with the quarters distributed to “the four corners of the kingdom.” So, if you want to celebrate the night, build yourself a bonfire and get drunk while shouting at the flames. That’s how they do it in England.



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