The fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
In 1605, a gang of Roman Catholic conspirators--Robert Catesby, Thomas Winter, Thomas Percy, John Wright and Guy Fawkes--plotted to blow up the British Houses of Parliament. Fawkes, who'd served in the Spanish army, stashed twenty barrels of gunpowder in the cellar, intending to explode them, and blow Protestant King James I, his queen and other assorted royals to kingdom-come. Best laid plans, etc., and all concerned ended up being executed for treason. A grateful Parliament proclaimed November 5th as a national holiday.
Tonight , the British and members of the Commonwealth will light bonfires, the Parliament guards will conduct a ceremonial search for lurking miscreants, children will go around with dummy Guys demanding money, and a foiled arson attempt is celebrated with fireworks. Well, yes. In New Zealand, caution is urged which rather spoils the whole idea.
The 2005 film V for Vendetta featured a mysterious anarchist in a Guy Fawkes mask, although most Americans probably took him for Zorro.