Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Day, Bonfire Night and Firework Night, is an annual commemoration observed on the 5th of November, primarily in the United Kingdom.
Its history begins with the events of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes a member of the Gunpowder plot, was arrested while guarding the explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords.
Celebrating the fact that King Janes I had survived an attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the introduction of the Observance of the 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of giving thanks for the plots failure.
Within a few decades Gunpowder Treason Day, as it was known, became the predominant English state commemoration, but as it carried strong Protestant religious overtones it also became a focus for anti-Catholic sentiment.
Puritans delivered sermons regarding the perceived dangers of popery, while during increasingly raucous celebrations, common folk burnt effigies of poplar hate figures, such as the pope.
Towards the end of the 18th century, reports appear of children begging for money with effigies of Guy Fawkes and 5 November gradually became known as Guy Fawkes Day.
In the 1850s changing attitudes resulted in the toning down of much of the day’s anti-Catholic rhetoric, and the Observance of 5th November Act was repealed in 1859. Eventually the violence was dealt with, and by the 20th century Guy Fawkes Day had become an enjoyable social commemoration, although lacking much of its original focus. The present-day Guy Fawkes Night is usually celebrated at large organised events, centred on a bonfire and extravagant firework displays.
Settlers exported Guy Fawkes Night to overseas colonies, including some in North America, where it was known as Pope Day. Those festivities died out with the onset of the American Revolution.
Claims that Guy Fawkes Night was a Protestant replacement for older customs like Samhain are disputed, although another old celebration, Halloween, has lately increased in popularity in England, and according to some writers, may threaten the continued observance of 5 November.