Today is Guy Fawkes Night, which is a holiday that falls on the 5th of November every year. The holiday is a cross between July 4th (fireworks) and Halloween (mischief making, kids asking for pennies, and occult-like bonfires), as far as I can tell.
This past week, Jon and I have heard and watched fireworks launched by our neighbors, and tonight the fireworks have been non-stop all around us. Unlike in the U.S., there don’t appear to be highly-regulated, central locations to view “official” fireworks, and instead, it feels as if everyone in London has managed to buy and launch their own small-scale fireworks.
Not so many bonfires going on in central London, though I was reading that elsewhere in England, there are huges ones that get attended by tens of thousands of people.
So what’s being commemorated by Guy Fawkes Night?
Well, acording to the handy dandy Guy Fawkes Society website, everyone is celebrating the arrest of the man who plotted in 1605 to blow up King James I and his Protestant aristocracy by hiding away (and planning to detonate) barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords.
The short story is that Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators were Catholics who were trying to fight back against a Protestant king who was attacking Catholics. Sometime after smuggling barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords, their conspiracy was revealed and Guy Fawkes and his gang were tortured, hanged until almost dead, and then drawn and quartered. You know, the usual pleasantries.
And then England, allegedly so joyous the King’s life had been spared, celebrated by lighting bonfires and using them to burn effigies of Guy Fawkes.
I don’t know about you, but it seems an odd thing to celebrate the survival of a king who likely didn’t do much for anyone but himself (I take a dim view of kings, as you can see), and while I don’t advocate blowing up anything as a solution to a problem, I feel a little sad that, seen from one point of view, the plotters were just Catholics trying to protect their own in a hostile country.
Maybe the widespread celebration of this holiday has more to do with England not having an “Independence Day” to really celebrate the country than it does the English people’s love for the saving of the King and the arrest of the traitorous Guy Fawkes?
Anyway, ambivalent British holidays aside, Jon and I had a good weekend. We had sunny skies and brisk temperatures, and the highlight was having dinner at Bobby and Cathy’s to celebrate Bobby’s recent promotion. And clearly, in order to celebrate, Bobby would slave over a stove and treat us to some great wines. He whipped up a deliciously tender osso bucco to accompany some really stellar wines, including a 2002 Tenuto dell’Ornellaia Masseto and a tasty Merlot from Cakebread in Napa. Usually Jon and I pick wines to go with our food, but with wines this sought after, it made sense that Bobby cooked to match the wines.
Great company, food, and wine – perfect.