Bonfire Night is celebrated on November 5th each year. On this day in 1605 a group of 13 young men planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
Their aim was to kill the King and the Members of Parliament who were making life hard for the Catholics. Under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I the Catholics were persecuted and many hoped that when James I became King he would be more tolerant. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The leader of the group, Robert Catesby, decided that violent action was needed and so the ‘gunpowder plot’ was planned.
The 13 conspirators got 36 barrels of gunpowder and stored them in a cellar under the House of Lords. However, as the group worked on the plot, some of the plotters started having second thoughts. One sent an anonymous letter to a friend warning him to stay away from the Parliament on November the 5th. This warning letter reached the King and the King’s forces made plans to stop the conspirators.
One of the group, Guy Fawkes, was in the cellar of the parliament with the 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities arrived and he was caught, tortured and executed for treason.
On the night of the 5th November 1605 bonfires were lit to celebrate the safety of the King. Since then, November 5th has become known as Bonfire Night. The event is celebrated every year with fireworks and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.
While the 5th November is still celebrated some 500 years later, the way we celebrate it has changed. Originally the day was celebrated in church but this practice declined over time. By the Victorian era the date had become known as Guy Fawkes Day. A home-made ‘Guy’, made out of old clothing stuffed with straw or other filling, was carried around by enthusiastic children, asking for ‘a penny for the Guy’ to help them buy fireworks. In 1910, firework manufacturers started calling the occasion ‘Fireworks Night’ so they could sell more fireworks. It became very popular for families to buy fireworks to use in their back gardens. However, because of the dangers, more large public displays have become common. Most commonly called ‘Bonfire Night’, it can also be referred to as ‘Guy Fawkes Night’, ‘Guy Fawkes Day’ or ‘Fireworks Night’.
Sourced from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zp9v34j