Whether it is Independence Day, Bastille Day or a plethora of other national days, fireworks are part of the celebrations in remembrance of freedom or independence.
You will not find Britain among those ‘freedom from something’ holidays. As most people know, the United States’ Independence Day is actually celebrating its freedom from Great Britain, as are a number of other countries
Britain, however, has never been in a position of subservience and consequently has not needed to free itself from anything, but they do have a night they celebrate with fireworks. They are actually commemorating that time when fireworks didn’t go off over 400 years ago.
Let me explain quickly.
In 1605, the Catholics made an attempt to blow up Parliament, the English seat of government. Guy Fawkes was found in the cellars beneath the House of Lords guarding barrels of gunpowder, destined to send King James I to his Protestant heaven or hell.
In times gone by, Britain’s internal conflicts have usually been religious ones. The country has see-sawed back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism for centuries with some interesting results. The most outstanding one in my mind is the creation of Anglican Church by King Henry VIII, who is known for his six wives. When the Pope refused to let him divorce his first wife, he simply established the Church of England with himself at its head. He then divorced his Catholic wife and married his second. Easy peasy.
A simple rhyme to remember what happened to each of his six wives in order is :
Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.
But I digress.
Guy Fawkes night is on the 5th of November in remembrance of the foiled Gunpowder Plot and at the same time a failed Catholic attempt to be rid of a Protestant King and government. If it were a national holiday once, it is no longer, but there are always firework displays around the country as well as those held in people’s own gardens.
Also known as Bonfire Night, a stuffed dummy called a Guy, may still be burned in memory of Guy Fawkes. What people have forgotten is that before the dummy called Guy, it was the effigy of the Pope that was burned, and I will bet you a barbecue that a good number of folk have even forgotten it has anything to do with religion at all. The Catholics will be out there celebrating Bonfire Night with the best of them!