Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night

Published: 01/11/2020 By Allan Fuller

Guy Fawkes did not just inadvertently create bonfire night!  His attempt, along with his co-conspirators would have changed the history of Britain. On 5 November 1605, Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the King's escape from assassination by lighting bonfires, provided that "this testemonye of joy be carefull done without any danger or disorder" . An Act of Parliament designated each 5 November as a day of thanksgiving for "the joyful day of deliverance", and remained in force until 1859. Fawkes was one of 13 conspirators, but he is the individual most associated with the plot. 

The 5th November has variously been called Guy Fawkes Night, Guy Fawkes Day, Plot Night, and Bonfire Night (which can be traced directly back to the original celebration of 5 November 1605). Bonfires were accompanied by fireworks from the 1650s onwards, and it became the custom after 1673 to burn an effigy (usually of the pope) when heir presumptive James, Duke of York, converted to Catholicism. Effigies of other notable figures have found their way onto the bonfires, such as Paul Kruger and Margaret Thatcher, although most modern effigies are of Fawkes. The "guy" is normally created by children from old clothes, newspapers, and a mask. 

So what else did Faulks create, simply a word in very common use especially now. During the 19th century, "guy" came to mean an oddly dressed person, while in many places it has lost any pejorative connotation and instead refers to any male person and the plural form can refer to people of any gender for example as in "you guys".