Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated on November 5th in the United Kingdom as that is the date that Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were to carry out their crime. It was on January 31, 1606, at Westminster in London, Guy Fawkes, the chief conspirator in the plot to blow up the British Parliament building, jumps to his death moments before his execution for treason.
The night before a general parliamentary session scheduled for November 5, 1605 where King James I was scheduled to attend, Guy Fawkes hid in the cellar of the Parliament building and he was discovered by Sir Thomas Knyvet, a justice of the peace. Detaining Fawkes and searching the building resulting in the discovery of nearly two tons of gunpowder in the cellar. Fawkes revealed that he was a participant in an English Catholic conspiracy organized by Robert Catesby. The goal of this conspiracy was to annihilate England’s entire Protestant government, including King James I.
With Fawkes detained and the plot uncovered, English authorities spent the next few months killing or capturing all of the conspirators in the “Gunpowder Plot”. In this process they often arrested, tortured, or killed dozens of innocent English Catholics as well. After a brief trial, Guy Fawkes was sentenced, along with the other surviving chief conspirators, to be hanged, drawn, and quartered in London. On January 30, 1606, the gruesome public executions began in London, and on January 31 Fawkes was called to meet his fate. While climbing to the hanging platform, however, he jumped from the ladder and broke his neck, dying instantly.
In remembrance of the Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated across Great Britain every year on the fifth of November. Being born and raised in the United States, I was not aware of this event and heard about it for the first time in a Ruth Rendell novel. As dusk falls in the evening, villagers and city dwellers across Britain light bonfires, set off fireworks, and burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes, celebrating his failure to blow up Parliament and James I. In modern times, these celebrations are sometimes anti-government as well.