A lot happened on November 4th. The people voted and we elected a new President. Today, November 5th while America is rejoicing in the end of a very long election process, the Brits are celebrating another year of their beautiful Houses of Parliament, democracy and religious freedom.
November 5th is a wonderful night in England – it’s called Bonfire Night. The story behind Bonfire Night begins with Guy Fawkes. He was a member of a group of Catholic revolutionaries who tried to assassinate King James 1 of England and Scotland by blowing up the Houses of Parliament during the state opening in 1605. The conspiracy was discovered and the plot, later known as the Gunpowder Plot, failed.
Guy Fawkes was an explosives expert and had a military background. All the conspirators were tried in 1606 and in true British manner were hanged, drawn and quartered. Fawkes, however, managed to free himself and jumped from the gallows, broke his neck and died, depriving the onlookers of the gruesome death they had so wanted to watch.
An Act of Parliament was passed to appoint November 5th as a day of thanksgiving. It is now a custom in England to set off fireworks, and have large bonfires with effigies of Fawkes put atop the bonfire and burned.
We are now in a time of change and of hope in America. Our new President elect has enormous challenges ahead of him – with the economy on top of his long list. We all wish him luck.
Today, as we celebrate a new era of democracy in this country and give thanks for those who have worked so hard through this election process, it is of interest to consider the impact of the Gunpowder Plot in England, and England’s celebration of their own democracy and freedom.