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If you’ve seen V for Vendetta, then you’re probably familiar with this poem:

Remember, remember the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason the Fifth of November
Should ever be forgot.

Today is 5 November, and here, as well as in Britain and other Commonwealth Nations, they’re celebrating Guy Fawkes Night – the night when the Gunpowder Plot was discovered and thwarted.

Guy Fawkes was an English Catholic (a rarity in the early 1600’s) involved in a plot to assassinate King James (a Protestant; King James Bible, anyone?) and blow up the House of Lords (known as the Gunpowder Plot). The plan was uncovered after a Lord Monteagle received an anonymous letter warning him to stay away at the next congress of Parliament. Fawkes was found out and arrested. He gave a false name and refused to identify his fellow conspirators. After the subsequent torture, Fawkes signed a confession of his guilt, stood trial, and was sentenced to be executed by hanging. After his death, his body was drawn and quartered, and put on display as a warning to others with a rebellious political spirit.

Historically Guy Fawkes Night was commemorated to celebrate the saving of the King and Parliament. Effigies of Fawkes might be burned, parades marched, and silly masks worn; it was traditionally a day of much anti-Catholic sentiment throughout Britain and her colonies. In modern times, a 5 Nov. celebration typically involves bonfires, booze, fireworks, and “singing.”