Revelers in Britain burn torches (and effigies of Mr. Fawkes) and dress in macabre garb each year on Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes Day.
Has the meaning of Guy Fawkes Day changed, for this particular moment, in England? A holiday that traditionally had more to do with celebrating the squelching of a plot to blast England’s government to smithereens may take on a different significance these days, according to Harper’s columnist Scott Harper.
For centuries, Guy Fawkes Day marked the event. Englishmen were taught of the need to be vigilant in the defense of the realm, and particularly to remember the threat from within, from the disloyal Catholics. But mostly they enjoyed the privilege of lighting bonfires and engaging in pranks on a chilly autumn evening.
But today Britons have a take on Guy Fawkes that is much at odds with the historical one. Once Fawkes was a symbol of the traitor within. The people were called to be on guard against his like. No longer. Today Guy Fawkes is increasingly viewed as the heroic figure prepared to stand against an unjust and oppressive state, as a martyr and a victim of torture. What are the lessons of Guy Fawkes Day for 2007?