Guy Fawkes Day

How Is It Relevant Today?


©The Talon News | Murphy Jones

People of Great Britain celebrate Guy Fawkes Day on the 5th of November every year to honor the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

Izzy Lester and Abigail McCarroll

Starting in 1570, under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I, Catholics were increasingly oppressed in the currently Protestant-dominant Britain. After the queen’s death in 1603, King James I rose to power and began to even further oppress the Catholic group. Soon after he came to power, in May 1604, a group of Catholics came together with the united purpose of expelling him. Their plan was to blow up the king using gunpowder. A member of the group, Guy Fawkes, was to set off the gunpowder on November 5, 1605. In late October of that year, police were informed of the Gunpowder Plot by an anonymous letter. Consequently, a search party found Guy Fawkes with matches and 36 barrels of gunpowder on November 4. Fawkes and his co-conspirators were found guilty and tortured to death in January of the following year. After their deaths, an act of parliament declared November 5 to be a day of thanksgiving, most commonly known as Guy Fawkes Day. While mainly only celebrated in Britain today, the observance of this holiday and its past can be traced to current events in our modern-day world, therefore making this seemingly unimportant commemoration relevant with present circumstances.

One of the most prominent aspects of this holiday and its history that pertains to our world today would be the religious division between Protestants and Catholics. After the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, the neglect of Catholics and their rights in England continued well into the 19th century. Even with the full emancipation of Catholics now in place in England, the divide between the two religions still continues into present-day England. Anti-Catholic groups, though not as popular, are common in the country, and every person of the different faiths is taught of how wrong the other is compared to themselves. While the harsh mistreatment and violence toward Catholics are far from the past, there is still an evident rivalry between Catholics and Protestants everywhere, especially in England. These religious divisions don’t expand even farther than just Catholicism and Protestantism, such as the fierce rivalry between the Sunni and Shia Muslims, who have been forever separated thanks to the terrible battles between the Sunni Ottoman Empire and the Shia Safavid Empire in the Early Modern Era. Religious boundaries were very relevant in the past, and continue that way in the present.

A more recent relevance between the events that started Guy Fawkes Day and the world of today is the plan against the King itself. The Catholic group behind the Gunpowder plot had planned to attack not just King James I, but instead the entire House of Parliaments, which is where the king, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords came together peacefully to congregate. Earlier this year, on January 6, a mob of supporters for then-President Donald Trump stormed the United States capitol building. Despite the fact that the group of protesting Catholics never managed to blow up the House of Parliament against the pro-Trump mobbers, who were indeed successful in their raid of the capital building, both scenarios are both very similar in the sense that these two groups were fighting for something they believed in, but were so desperate they took a much more drastic approach to try and reach their goal. Guy Fawkes and his men wanted equal rights for Catholic followers, while the mobbers wanted the man they thought was the best fit to stay as President of the United States. While both crowds ultimately ended up failing in the long run, both of their attempts are forever imprinted in history.

For such a widely ignored and unknown holiday, the events of Guy Fawkes Day are very relevant to events happening presently, despite the long-year gap and the seemingly clear differences between those past events and those occurring today. With such a remote holiday being so connected to modern events, it ponders the question of what other mystery holidays out there are comparable to our world today.