What Does Burning The "Guy" Represent?
3rd November 2010
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Why Do We Burn The “Guy”?


As most of us know Guy Fawkes was hung, drawn and quartered so I wondered why exactly we burn the dummy figure of a “guy”? I looked into it and have found some facts for you. I’ll start by telling you a bit more about Bonfire Night itself.


Bonfire Night is a celebration of stopping the plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament with King James I inside it. On 5th November 1605 soldiers discovered a man called Guy Fawkes in a cellar under the Houses of Parliament. There were 36 barrels of gunpowder found with him. Guy Fawkes was arrested and tortured for four days until he reviled his plot to blow up Parliament and kill the king.


Guy Fawkes was a Roman Catholic who had been angered by the failure of King James I to grant more religious toleration to Catholics. This is why, then, he joined a group of four other Catholics led by Robert Catesby in a plot to kill the king. Catesby made the mistake of inviting other Catholics to join the plot; one of these was called Francis Tresham. Tresham was the person who got them caught and if it wasn’t for him the plot may well have worked! He wrote a letter to his brother-in-law Lord Monteagle warning him not to go to Parliament on 5 November 1605 and Monteagle told the government. Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were subsequently sentenced to an agonising death as traitors.


In 1606 Parliament agreed to make 5th November an annual day of public thanksgiving and ever since then the day has been celebrated with fireworks and bonfires. Celebrating with a bonfire is related to the ancient festival of Samhain, the Celtic New Year. Bonfires formed an important part of the Celtic New Year celebrations as they were believed to ward off evil spirits. From November 5th 1606 as part of thanksgiving it became the custom to light bonfires to ward off the evil influences of Guy Fawkes and his partners and any other evil that may try to harm England also to represent what could have happened if they had been successful in their plot.

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Andrew H

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