Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 32: Remember Remember the 5th of November

November 5th is a national holiday in Britain. It commemorates the day Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellars of Parliament with several barrels of gunpowder in 1605. He was seized and punished (I believe the full English torture gammit involving being drawn, quartered, hung, and beheaded) for treason.

The next year, the King had a sermon preached on that day, and it has been continuously remembered in England as a reminder that treason will never be forgotten. In fact, there is a little nursery rhyme to help every primary school child remember:

"Remember, remember the 5th of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot."

Today, instead of sermons preached, there are large bonfires and huge displays of fireworks on the 5th and on the weekend nights following. I got to see 12 minutes of very large fireworks at Sommerville College in its large quad. I have never been so close to fireworks, and I'm sure it would have been a fire hazard in the US! Saturday night, there was an even larger display in a community park that doubled as a charity event for (I believe) African causes.

I also heard a story that made my holiday even more memorable. Presumably, those helping Mr. Fawkes escaped capture, but returned to the cellar and removed the gunpowder. By this time, it was damp, so they attempted to dry it out by a fire...Too bad we don't also celebrate holidays for stupid traitors who kill themselves rather than those who ingloriously get caught!

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