Black-and-white drawing

Also known as ‘The Gunpowder (Schwarzpulver) Plot‘, or ‘Firework night‘.

George Cruikshank’s illustration of Guy Fawkes, published in William Harrison Ainsworth’s 1840 novel Guy Fawkes.

Other names: Guido Fawkes, John Johnson. Gunpowder Plot, a conspiracy (Verschwörung) to assassinate (Ermordung) King James VI & I and members of the Houses of Parliament. Conviction(s) High treason (Hochverrat). Criminal penalty (Strafrechtliche Verfolgung) for being a Traitor (Verräterin (f)); (Verräter (m)) = to be Hanged, drawn and quartered. So, the British had their own ‘Religious Terriorists‘ 400 years before other countries!

Guy Fawkes (/fɔːks/; 13th April 1570 – 31st January 1606), also known as Guido Fawkes while fighting for the Spanish, was a member of a group of provincial (provinziell) English Catholics who were involved in the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He was born and educated in York; his father died when Fawkes was eight years old, after which his mother married a recusant (Rebel, rebellious – abtrünnig) Catholic.

Fawkes converted to Catholicism and left for mainland Europe, where he fought for Catholic Spain in the Eighty Years’ War against Protestant Dutch reformers in the Low Countries. He travelled to Spain to seek support for a Catholic rebellion in England without success. He later met Thomas Wintour, with whom he returned to England. Wintour introduced him to Robert Catesby, who planned to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. The plotters leased an undercroft beneath the House of Lords; Fawkes was placed in charge of the gunpowder that they stockpiled (gelagert) there. The authorities were prompted by an anonymous letter to search Westminster Palace during the early hours of 5th November, and they found Fawkes guarding the explosives. He was questioned and tortured (Folter) over the next few days and confessed (beichten) to wanting to blow up the House of Lords.

Immediately before his execution on 31st January, Fawkes fell from the scaffold (Gerüst) where he was to be hanged and broke his neck, thus avoiding the agony of being hanged, drawn and quartered. He became synonymous (gleichbedeutend) with the ‘Gunpowder Plot ‘, the failure of which has been commemorated (Zum Gedenken) in the UK as ‘Guy Fawkes Night‘ since 5th November 1605, when his effigy is traditionally burned on a bonfire, commonly accompanied (häufig begleitet) by fireworks.

A monochrome engraving of eight men, in 17th-century dress. All have beards, and appear to be engaged in discussion

Sketch of a group of children escorting an effigy

In the UK the children will create a ‘Guy‘ and ask people, “A penny for the Guy?” with the idea of spending the money on buying fireworks; but probably they will spend the money they get on something else?

Many children, including adults, get hurt, some really badly during firework night. Some may even lose a hand or have a firework explode whilst in their pocket. Some local councils will offer fireworks at a safe controlled sight, but you must pay to get in. Many private homes do not have their own fireworks in their garden anymore, they prefer to attend an organised event by the council.

Here's why we celebrate Guy Fawkes night


The British only really use fireworks to celebrate ‘Guy Fawkes Night‘, ‘The Gunpowder Plot‘, or ‘Firework night‘. Only in the big cities, such as London or Edinburgh do we have fireworks to celebrate the New Year. Private homes do NOT normally set off fireworks to celebrate the New Year as Germans do.