Guy Fawkes Day and Geeks

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,

the Gunpowder Treason and Plot,

I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”

Thus reads the first part of a poem about Guy Fawkes.  In short, he was an British Catholic who nearly blew up Parliament in 1604 due to the ongoing religious spat between the Protestant Monarchy and the persecuted Catholics.  At first, Guy Fawkes day was celebrated as a victory for the British government in quelling the rebellion.  Fun-filled celebrations include fireworks and burning an image of Guy Fawkes in effigy. However, over the years he’s become more of a revolutionary, Robin Hood-like figure.

Now, I’m an American.  How did I find out about this British holiday?  Moreover, why should I care?  I wish I could say it was due to a sustained interest in British history, but honestly, my interest wanes after the Middle Ages.

First my husband spent part of his childhood in the UK, so he’s brought all sorts of interesting traditions into my life.

Second, I’m a geek who reads comic books, including a little-known graphic novel published in the 1980s called V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore.  In the book: “A mysterious masked revolutionary who calls himself “V” works to destroy the totalitarian government, profoundly affecting the people he encounters” (Wikipedia).  It inspired a movie of the same name.

Graphic novel about a revolutionary figure against a totalitarian government.  Yes, I think that qualifies as intriguing for egalitarian Americans, especially hard-core geeks who favor dystopian futures.  Ironically, in the UK some complain that the highly commercialized American holiday of Halloween is stealing away some of their Guy Fawkes joy.

In any case, please continue to Read the Extraordinary.  Responsibly.

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Ha.  Ha.  Ha.  Anything to sell fireworks.

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7 thoughts on “Guy Fawkes Day and Geeks

  1. I’ve never read the comic, but the movie brought up some interesting questions. Phantom Fireworks trying to push their business! Now that’s amusing!

    1. Yes, it’s interesting how the subversive quality of Guy Fawkes works so well in a modern context, where so many people are skeptical and distrustful of the government.

  2. My dad always talked about Guy Fawkes day, though I have no clue how he found out about it (maybe because his grandma was English and came over just after the Titanic sank?). When I started university, one of my English professors was actually English and asked our class on Nov 5 what was significant about that day… I actually knew the answer. 🙂

  3. It’s a pretty fun day. I’m at a loss for any American holiday that compares. I can’t picture the US venerating someone who tried to blow up a major government structure over a religious turf war. Which is interesting, because you’d think that Americans would be more anti-establishment than Brits.

  4. I do wonder why Guy Fawkes has survived the centuries but there is something odd about walking home in an artificial gunpowder fog after standing with thousands watching a sky alive with colour. I wonder if in the UK Guy Fawkes has become intertwined with Samhain? We didn’t go trick or treating when I was young, before I realised the other side of things, we went guisin’.
    http://www.rampantscotland.com/know/blknow_halloween.htm
    Now that I am a Christian I miss the innocence of dressing up and going round the doors doing a song or rhyme for sweets and money, my children will never know this side but I did compromise this year and make a pumpkin lantern but only because I couldn’t find a turnip big enough.
    Is the history of US Halloween linked to the ancient celtic customs or other cultures, any thoughts?

    1. Yes, I’ve heard that in Scotland there is a tradition of dressing up, a la Samhain. It’s not that common in England though.

      In the US, many people, Christian or non-Christian, dress up, carve jack o’ lanterns, etc. It’s become one big, silly, commercial holiday that gives everyone a license to goof-off for one night.

      Here’s a good site for information. Thanks to the Mexican influence, there’s also some of the “Day of the Dead” stuff going on.

      http://www.halloweenishere.com/history.html

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