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Special days in November

November 2012  

FireworksA reminder about the history behind Guy Fawkes night and Remembrance Day

November in the UK is a special month because of two very special days that occur in the first two weeks.

November starts off with All Saints Day on the 1st, which is actually a continuation of Hallowe’en on the previous night and a special day to remember all the saints and martyrs throughout Christian history.

This is followed by All Souls’ Day on the 2nd November, which is an opportunity for churches to commemorate the departed.

But the real events this month kick off with Guy Fawkes’ night on November 5th, and how great it is that an event that happened over 400 years ago is still celebrated so widely across the land.

Guy Fawkes costumeMost people have learned the story behind the Gunpowder Plot at some time in their lives, but over the years it is easy to forget exactly what it was about! In the late 1500s and just after the turn of the century, under the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, people in England who followed the Catholic religion had been persecuted. When the Queen died in 1603 it was hoped that her successor, James 1, would be a lot more tolerant. When he didn’t change the laws, 13 young men got together and decided to take some action to bring about change. They certainly planned a radical form of protest - to blow up the Houses of Parliament which would kill the King and also some MPs who were also against the Catholics. The date chosen was November 5th because the King was due to open Parliament that day.

The men hired a cellar under the House of Lords and filled it with barrels of gunpowder. Guy Fawkes had experience in munitions, so he was given the task of lighting the gunpowder to form the explosion.

Unfortunately one of the plotters, Francis Tresham, sent a warning letter to a relation who he thought might be in the House of Lords on the fateful day, and this exposed the plot and Guy Fawkes and some of his fellow plotters were arrested.

It obviously was a major event at the time, but for centuries since children and adults alike have been enjoying commemorating the plan with bonfires and wonderful fireworks across the land.

Remembrance Day is another major feature in November. At 11am on the 11th November 1918 the ferocious guns of the first world war on the Western Front finally ceased after four years of warfare. Remembrance Day is a special day set aside to commemorate all the men and women who were killed during not only the First World War, but all wars and conflicts since.

The day used to be known as Armistice Day but was renamed as Remembrance Day after the second world war.

Buy a poppy onlinePoppies are traditionally worn on this day. This is because during the First World War, the region of Flanders in Belgium was laid bare by the terrible fighting. Buildings, trees and fields were all turned into a sea of mud. However, one small plant, the poppy, managed to survive the massacre and turmoil. The seeds of a poppy can lie dormant in the ground for years, and tend to grow and flower only when the soil is disturbed. Even during the war, the poppy managed to flower and it became a symbol of the war and of those who survived.

The poppy is now used to commemorate all who have given their lives in conflicts past and present and in making a donation to receive a poppy you are supporting the excellent work of the Royal British Legion.

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