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Bonfire Night. Why Do We Celebrate A Lose Lose Event?

Posted by DeadAnarchistPhil on November 5, 2007

“Remember remember the fifth of November!” goes the old saying. The saying has been said ever since the 1605 Gunpowder plot or the powder puff as it was known at the time. I was talking to a Canadian friend of mine on messenger last week, it was Halloween actually, and we ended up talking about trick or treaters. Anyway… I brought up what some kids in the U.K do on the fifth of November called “Guying” to commemorate the foiling of the Gunpowder plot. By the way for my non-UK readers and friends “Guying” is where you create an effigy of a Guy Fawkes (I’ll be telling you who he is in a moment) and take it around and ask “Penny for the Guy?”, it’s sort of like trick or treating. At the end of Bonfire night they burn the guy on top of a fire and set off lots of fire works.

In 1604 a plot was hatched to kill King James the 1st of England, most of his family and the Aristocracy in one fell swoop! The scheme was hatched by Robert Catesby to return England back to Catholicism and install James’s daughter Princess Elizabeth as a Catholic ruler. The idea was to pack as much Gunpowder under the Palace of Westminster as possible and kill all the Royal family and Aristocracy, except for the Royal children who would be kidnaped to inherit the Crown and rule as Catholics. Guy Fawkes, along with other co-conspirators, were the people in charge of storing the gunpowder in a cellar under the House Of Lords. During this time some of the conspirators were concerned about some Catholics who would be in the Palace Of Westminster when the gunpowder went off. So one of the conspirators told Lord Monteagle, a prominent Catholic, not to go to Parliament on the day. Lord Monteagle then handed this written warning over to the secretary of state. On this tip-off Guy Fawkes was found guarding a pile of faggots not far from where the gunpowder was stored. On his arrest he was found with a watch, matches and touch-paper. He also admitted (apparently) upon his arrest that his intention was to kill the King!

Hearing the plot had been foiled the co-conspirators fled. Many of them were caught but Robert Catesby was killed in a shoot out in Staffordshire. As for Guy Fawkes, he was tortured, badly! But contrary to how many people think he died I was surprised to read what happened. He was tortured and then sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. That means  hanged till you are almost dead (that must be sedation post medieval style?), disembowelled and have your genitals burned and cut open in front of you, then dragged through the streets. But, he cheated the executioner… as he was about to be hung he jumped off the gallows and broke his neck! His friend and partner in crime Robert Keyes tried the same thing but failed… you just know the executioner went to town on him afterwards don’t you? Another thing that actually surprised me was that Nov 5th was a national holiday till 1859.

Now you know the story I’ll tell you why I’m a spoil sport and don’t celebrate it and why I aint out at the party my mam and sisters have gone to while I’m writing this blog. I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not because you think I’m a republican… because I’m not one of them. As with many holidays, the real meaning has gone out of it. It’s not about celebrating that we’re still a protestant country or the Catholic plotters failed, no, it’s about treacle toffee, fire works, bonfires, toffee apples, a pint and burning an effigy stuffed full of news paper! So as usual the Brits turn it in to an excuse for a piss up like every other holiday! So it doesn’t have the same meaning it once had but… when you ask people why the do it, it’s usually “Well everyone else does” or “Because of Guy Fawkes saving us” Granted some people aren’t that stupid but you get the idea. I don’t personally celebrate it because of the reasons behind it. If you look at what happened and what would have happened the people lost either way. Because Guy and his cohorts didn’t succeed we were still stuck with the Royal family and the Aristocracy for another 350 or so years of the protestant religion and minority rule! If you flip it around so that Guy Fawkes and the plotters won we would have been stuck with the Catholic religion and 350 years of a Catholic Aristocracy. So you see either way we were going to lose. I don’t like to celebrate the fact were screwed over or going to be screwed… even if the rest of population thinks it’s great.


24 Responses to “Bonfire Night. Why Do We Celebrate A Lose Lose Event?”

  1. Kathryn said

    Thanks for filling me in before. I find it very interesting you\’d celebrate something of that nature. Perhaps we should celebrate the fact we burned the white house , in fact the reason it was white is the burn marks where painted out white not to see the charred wood that could be sav…now that\’s something to celebrate!

  2. Pete said

    I can\’t fault anything you say butI am somewhat curious as to why katona in particular is so reviled. I guess it is because she does trade on her addictions, childhooh, divorce and now her bi-polar condition…….and somehow, people keep giving her money!!!
    Well have a good weekendTake care and love to you and yours

  3. The Divine Mrs M said

    Hiya Phil
    thank you very much indeed for your kind comment..it made me feel better than I have been doing for a while.
    I am still on spaces, I will continue to publish Mags Thursday Kitchen.
    and i have discovered that i do still have a deep desire to carry on blogging, so im just gonna take it a day at a time, and see how it goes! …*which is probably what most peeps do anyway… LOL
    i hope you are doing ok Phil.  Love to you and the puddy cats!  🙂
    mags x

  4. Pete said

    Going back to our chat yesterday having read everything I really would not worry about it – the lad is a tosser and uses the safety of distance to make suggestions about you – I am pretty sure that he would lack the cajones to say it to your face. Having a particular taste in women is not an offence nor is it a reason to be critical of anyone else – look at me, my personal taste in women is that they breathe!!
    £40 for a ticket, £30 for a t-shirt, £8 for a coffee mug……it was about the money and nothing else. As I mentioned in my reply to Dave – one of the party I was with on Saturday made a valid point that if you had been in a band in your late teens and enjoyed some success and 30 years later you had the opportunity to basically assure your financial status for your old age with a lucrative tour – you would take it…….I am pretty sure I would even though it is tandemount to selling your soul.
    From a musical prespective I agree, if it was about musical development PIL was the way forward but the others Messers Matlock, Cook and Jones are not nearly as wealthy as Lydon/Rotten and a PIL tour would not have been as lucrative. Ask Johnny Rotten to justify it? – I can see him now sneering "because I can"
    Have a good day

  5. Pete said

    The spice girls thing? Believe it or not something like that has been around since the first time the spices came along – I just brought it up to date a little with a few of my own. I must admit I haven\’t been on you tube for a while but recently found myself looking for old video\’s and I thought these would sum up my strange tastes!!
    The Pistols – well I have blogged about it today but in the main I have mixed feelings about the whole thing – glad I went but feel somehow empty by the experience – read the blog and maybe talk some more another time
    Take care and love to all

  6. ✿Livvy said

    Hi Phil,
    So glad I’m back to the world of MSN space again! For almost a week, I couldn’t access MSN and all its related features! In the end, I wrote Microsoft Technical Support Team an email, and got the problem fixed. Gosh! These people were very helpful indeed! J
    Anyway, finally got a chance to read your essay! Haha J The ways people in the old days used to torture a man sound absolutely horrible! I mean, how did they invent such varieties of methods to crucify a human being! Unbelievable! 
    The phenomenon you pointed out in this blog about how people celebrate a certain holiday without recognizing the real historical background behind it is very prevalent these days. Here in the States, many little kids and teenagers go trick or treat without ever knowing what is the real origin of Halloween. One of my co-workers and her husband are both Christians. One day, when I asked her how she would like to dress up her baby son this Halloween, she told me they chose not to celebrate this particular holiday due to their religious beliefs, for they believe Halloween is a celebration of the devil and the dead.  
    Another thing is that without a solid religious background and origin behind a holiday, the celebration could easily lose its originality and true meaning as time goes by.  For instance, the Chinese New Year is not considered a religious holiday (although I hope it were so I could find some excuses to take a day off for work: P).  The Spring Festival, as we like to call the Chinese New Year, is a traditional holiday that has been passed down through many generations.  Although we still celebrate it now, and still treat it to as one of the most important holidays for Chinese, both those who live in China and those who reside in other foreign countries, few people care about its origin anymore.  Basically, we just go out and eat a big feast with family members and friends, which sounds more like a social gathering event.  In a sense, it’s good that the holiday makes it possible for busy and stressed out people to finally get relaxed and chat with each other; but at the same time, I think we should at least pay some attention to the holiday itself, for if we don’t care about the tradition and preserve it in the right way, sooner or later, it will lose its true meaning. 
    Have a nice week! I\’m going to California this Thanksgiving, and will sure take more pictures over there! See Ya!

  7. P said

    Hey Phil,Thanks, as always for your visits.I hope you and the family are well. :)November 5th represents my youngest\’ ones birthday…lol! I think the whole celebration of that type of event is a bit dark.Anyway mate, I\’ll be continuing my anonymous space but the G spot is being replaced by another space.Have a great week mate.Love to you and the family,Phil.

  8. Pete said

    I suspect you are like me in that when faced with these religious types – you view baiting them as a bit of sport – I know I do. Sad thing is – they just take it and these two in particular just grinned incessently – they really do believe this shit andclearly don\’t take in the truth. Maybe part of the brain washing process is to cut off the receptors in the brain that process common sense…..??
    Take care and love to you and yours – the week is going OK thanks – yours?

  9. ... Angelwitch said

    Hey Phil  🙂
    haha that sounds like our coach trip to Barcelona years ago, put it this way, if you fell asleep some
    git would set fire to your socks  hahaha lol…the bus company use some of that rare thing called
    common sense and send the old bangers and routemasters round the schools rather than the new stock.
    no one will care if they went up in flames…
    as for the blog, i was finding alternate, and probably better uses for the highway code
    and civic plans around here and so on, though most people who read it took things the wrong way and actually thought i\’d taken up smoking, no chance, not when richard\’s said he\’d kill me if i did  hahaha
    hope that clears things up
    off to my sister\’s in a mo so i\’ll see you later, have a good day

  10. ... Angelwitch said

    Hey Phil  🙂
    damn i must have missed that one, i do try and watch those sort of things if i remember to, i did have a good look around for that after you mentioned it but i couldn\’t find anything i didn\’t already know either, i mean i know about the years of appeasement and so on, it\’s rather worrying about how our government and most of the other\’s turned a blind eye for so long.
    it\’s funny because hazel and i sed to do our best to kill each other yet if anyone started on her i\’d come over and knock their brains out hahahaha, or bash their shins in, mum gave me some heavy boots for school  🙂
    that said our old schol was a hell hole, i swear my mum was there every week, i\’m amazed she never hit the head teacher…they were useless…
    anyways i\’m off, oh if you see my blog don\’t worry, i HAVEN\’t actually taken up smoking, it\’s just the angle i\’m looking on things.. it\’ll become clear when you read it.

  11. Pete said

    Unfortuntely I live in a house where the hollywood fayre is part of the staple diet and from time to time a film does seem appealing, but I always end up being disappointed. Apart from maybe indie films which I don\’t really watch, no-one sees film making as a craft any more – get a couple of big stars, a half finished script of a half decent idea – throw in some CGI and voila – what we are forced to watch this year. There have been some half decent premises for films knocking around and I was quite looking forward to seeing The Number 23, 1408, Grindhouse DeathProof and Planet Terror but all of them have left me feeling really disappointed. Ironically the one I enjoyed most – the one with the hollywood pretty boys, the one where they made no secret of the fact they just did it for a laugh and never took it seriously – Oceans 13, was actually the best one of the lot!!
    Maybe one day some will make a good film again
    Take care and love to you and yours

  12. ... Angelwitch said

    Hey Phil  🙂
    I didn\’t know that the US and UK were directly involved in arming Nazi germany though i knew about
    the general policies of appeasemant and turning a blind eye to their movenents for years running
    up to WWII. Our fault really because of the treaty of Versailes, it was useless really, it left Germany in
    a limbo between being complety crushed as a military and economic power but just about strong enough and
    more than angry enough to do what they did eventually do and rearm and take on europe in a second world war.
    nearly every war fought has been driven by some economic greed of some form or another by the agressors.
    The two gulf wars are good examples of that in recent times as are
    the Wars between Iraq and Iran and Afganistan and the Soviet union
    being prime examples of western interference going badly wrong a few years
    down the line, because Iraq and Afganistan both used their new found weapons
    against the idiots who gave the things to them.
    as for us, we got our comeuppance for our own imperialistic ways because we ended up near enough destroying  the empire to save ourselves in the two wars because we didn\’t have the resources to defend everything and  what we did defend left the empire so weakened that the individual countries declared independane one by one without any real fear of us coming over with an armed force to take them back again.
    but yeah if we were sensible and grown up about things none of this would have happened eh?
    hope you\’re having a good week mate, have fun

  13. The Divine Mrs M said

    Hi Phil…
    i love the pictures of your garden, I love gardens, and yours looks charming!
    History has never been my forte, so i enjoyed reading about the history of guy fawkes.
    i always thought that he was excuted by being burnt alive at the stake!?  :s  so that just shows what a dumbass I am!  :/
    i dont formally celebrate guy fawkes night. When my son was small i used to take him to organised fireworks dispays (which he loved) but i wouldnt care to take myself out of the house anymore to do that.
    I do sometimes look out at them from my window,  as the view i have is quite panoramic.
    i hope youre having  a great weekend!  🙂 im still laughing at your comments about the christmas cake and the dundee cake hahaha  ;p
    mags x

  14. ... Angelwitch said

    Hey Phil  🙂
    it\’s fair to say i\’ve got a somewhat ecclectic taste in music, I love it everytime i tell someone i listen to
    everything from Metallica to Kylie…haha the look on their faces…oh dear it\’s funny..
    My bad on that one, the pc published one version of the second part then another so i got rid of one…it would
    have been so much eaiser if i was able to just do one list but oh no, MSN had to throw it\’s toys out of the pram instead..
    well I\’ll keep things brief because i\’m off to my sister\’s in a mo with  a couple of bottles of wine and a long and funny night ahead
    take it easy and have a good weekend

  15. Pete said

    Thanks for the comment and as always whilst I agree with some, I disagree with other bits of it – think its much healthier that way – don\’t you?
    Apart from this speech i don\’t really know enough about Enoch Powell to like or dislike him – all I know is that within this speech there is a lot of common sense, a lot of intelligence and in particular a lot of foresight in how immigration would affect this country – immigration that went unchecked and unmanaged it has to be said.
    His use of the word Piccaninnies has to be taken into context Phil, remember 40 years ago it was more acceptable to say some things than it is now – look at TV comedies from the 70\’s like Rising Damp and Love Thy Neighbour and you would see exactly what I mean – and to be honest, he may well have been paraphrasing the womans plight as told to him in her words – would that make it any more or any less acceptable??
    I think the most startling and true point within the whole speech is when he points to what one labour MP said – The Sikh\’s campaigning to maintain their customs. It was described as unaccepable and they should just adhere to the terms and conditions of their employment. If you put it into context he simply didn\’t want them wearing turbans as it was an outward show of their faith and I daresay in some industries, was a beach of health and safety. He was absolutley right to insist we should stick by our guns and say no……look what it has lead to. I even remember myself a shallow victory for sikh\’s when the forces half dozen or so sikh officers were permitted to stick a badge on their turban rather than have to wear a helmet. Sure, regardless of your faith you would rather have some kind of headwear that would give ayou a fighting chance if someone started twatting you with a baseball bat!! If my memory serves me right it had something to do with the wearing of helmets when riding a motorbike being made compulsary – the sikh\’s said they could not wear them over a turban!!
    In his opinion and quite rightly I think – if the sikh\’s were to truly integrate into english society they should have just taken their turbans off to ride a motorbike and stop bloody complaining. I understand what you mean about people not being able to integrate but the question is really what immigrants are integrating into – It is a fractured society because we did not say no! We did not stop small communities being overrun by minorities – we did not stop whole schools being taken over – we publish letters in many different languages and have changed the whole culture of our society so we do not offend anyone. It is fucking nonsense – OK we b have a christian statute – not one that everyone agrees with for sure – but one nonetheless that is our heritage and tradition. What was wrong in saying OK, we don\’t expect you to change religion but we do expect you to respect it and not expect us to embrace yours. We expect you to respect and embrace our culture, but we wont with yours……..can you see how that one act – even listening to the sikhs and their complaints in the 60\’s has led to a mess of a society we have where the minorities beliefs and cultures are held in higher esteem than the very nuts and bolts of this country. Above all really it isn\’t really about religion – Its about principle and the principle should have and should always be – this is England – if you want to come here – be English.
    I simply feel that this speech – written almost 40 years ago was a warning from an intelligent, forwardthinking and probably racist man – but he was absolutely right!!!
    Take care my friend
    Love to you and yours

  16. spice said

    Phil, your basic facts of the events are accurate but your assessment of the long term implications are way off the mark. In a act worthy of the worst kind of political propaganda you\’ve twisted the interpretation of history to suit your own anti-religious bias and have completely ignored the subsequent events of the 17th century – specifically Oliver Cromwell and the English Cilvil Wars – which have far more long term effect than the historically interesting, but ultimately insignificant Gunpowder Plot.

  17. Pete said

    Oh don\’t worry – Blog published today for your delectation – although I did not write much of it – I am sure you will appreciate it though…..I tried to publish a blog from home on Monday but spaces wouldn\’t let me!!
    I didn\’t panic so much about the gardening thing – part of me wants to sometimes but I went off Latin when I did it in grammar school in 1979!! Nah, I will leave it to the experts..
    Have a good day
    Take care

  18. ... Angelwitch said

    Hey Phil  🙂
    hmmm now that\’s a path i don\’t want to think about, I\’d guess Scotland would have declared war on us for their king
    being blown up on our turf for a start, I could also imagine other countries sticking their oar in for one side or another as we descended into a state of civil war, because i have no doubt that would have happened.
    well who knows? i\’m not the one writing the plot
    I read about GF doing that somewhere, and I don\’t blame him for doing that, it\’d have been far better than what the executioner had planned at any rate.
    Our bonfire was a bit more controlled though it was impressive to see, the firemen had to keep beating out the grass nearby because it kept going up, it was a bit to big and hot to do any firedancing lol..
    as for my blog, no it\’s not that for once, i\’m just being philosophical on things at the moment, though the fact i\’ve been turned down for yet another job\’s got on my nerves somewhat. (quelle surprise) eh?
    besides i thought all the americans over there on myspaceran away with their tails between their legs now?
    and yep i\’ve got the list up now (no thanks to MSN) so come and pick as many holes in it as you like ahaha
    take it easy and see ya later

  19. Pete said

    Thanks for the birthday greeting and enough with the \’old\’ quips – remember you will be 40 one day!!
    As for the agnostic, dyslexic thingy – would you believe me if I told you I got that from a member of Duran Duran??
    Bonfire night, fireworks day, Guy Fawkes day whatever you want to call it is I suppose – and thanks for the history refresher – another religious holiday that has been turned into an excuse to get pissed. I don\’t bother anymore except maybe a few sparklers for my little girl – but like Halloween, christmas and easter for that matter – people celebrate them for all the wrong reasons…..
    I would much rather celebrate next time I buy a new shirt!!
    Have a great day
    Love to you and yours

  20. Robin said

    Fancy giving the plot away just so some catholics might die Blow the place up and done with it, even the IRA had a go and like guy Fawks they made a hash of it. Lets face it the building is hardly the place for democratic government to day. Its a symbol of capitalism and we all know what we can do with that
    take care mate.

  21. ... Angelwitch said

    Hey Phil  🙂
    I suppose that\’s one way of looking at it,Inwars there are never winners though just losers one way or another
    I could argue that James I keeping his throne was beneficial to the people in a way because down the line he fathed that headstrong idiot Charles I who managed to alienate evderone one way or another until a civil war arose and his susequent execution and a few years of us being a republic. Only problem was no one could really decide how to rule with this vacuum of power so after Cromwell died they were glad to have someone calling the shots again even if it was another monarch.
    I suppose recent hstory being what it was, we\’d only got rid of the rule of the papalcy 70 years before, had turmoil when Henry VIII\’s children tried to rule with their different faiths and finally Elizabeth I risking war with spain and her kingdom to keep the papalcy from getting their hands on the reins again, i can aprecialte a large swathe of the poeple just being glad that the staus quo was preserved for a few more years at the time.
    For me, like most of our major national events it was a good time for the family to meet up and have a good night in each other\’s company, My parents would have their fireworks, mum\’s sister and her family would come round bringing their own fireworks and we often had other friends and family around too, though i suppose deeper down it might have born out from the fact fawkes could be considered a Catholic martyr and my family has a Catholic background.
    meh we had fun, especially if uncle Andy came round bearing the sort of rockets normally used for a big public display haha
    hope you\’re keping well this week mate

  22. ♪CoNni£ said

    * what i see is that we find the same society stereotype over and over again everywhere.

  23. ♪CoNni£ said

    Mate, hello, I replied finally to the e-mail… so sorry took me so long.
    By the roads,I like your point of view in these blog , But Uk is not the only place  where people takes National commemorations as a pretext. Here in Mexico happens the very same thing, for example,Sepmtember 16th and Nov 20th , the country has two major celebrations, Independence and Revolution in each case. I\’ve met people who\’s been asked if they know the meaning of the celebrations and say : "Oh is it the constitution day or the Batalla de puebla? " And minutes later you find  \’em bloody drunk, yelling "viva Mexico". SO sad they give such a bad impreson to foreigners.
    My point is that  it\’s a shame for anyone in any country not to know the meaning/background of their National festivities,(i does not mean you have to celebrate them). Many will say "Mex… lol, they\’re a 3rd world country and therefore chavs act that way" , and that  Uk might be a  1St world country.
    But what i see is that  over and over gain we find the same society stereotype everywhere.
    well mate take care ….greetings!!!

  24. ✿Livvy said

    Hi Phil,
    What! I thought you no longer write longgg essays! But here it goes again! Haha! :)) I read the beginning part of it, sounds very interesting, and will go back and read more sometimes this week when I have more free time.
    BTW, I like the pictures you took for the cats.  Although I\’m more a puppy lover, I do like kittens which are very very cute, I think. 
    I can\’t believe you used to maintain more than one space! I can hardly have the spare time to manage just one! :)))
    Isn\’t it strange that U.S. and Britan are the only countries as far as I know that still switch clocks back and forth, and use the old non-metric systems, such as ounce, inches, etc.  I remembered that I used to have troubles with these units when I first came to the U.S..  Anyway, just wish someday they will start using the metric system instead.  :))
    You can draw?!! That\’s great! I look up to people who draw well since I\’m not good at it at all; that\’s why I choose photography, much easier, no need to draw. Haha! :))
    Will come back later to read your essay, and have a nice weekend!

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