Bonfire Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Night, arose from the events of November 5, 1605, when a plot to kill the King and blow up Parliament failed. An official state holiday of celebration was established, and Guy Fawkes, the personification of the evil plot, was burned in effigy in bonfires all over England. The Gunpowder Plot was also very much caught up in the political and religious conflicts of the day, and in it heyday Guy Fawkes Night was also known as Pope Night as anti-Catholic forces used the holiday to burn the Pope in effigy along with Fawkes, preaching the evils of the Roman Church.
Over time the political and religious overtones have faded, and the prominence of Guy Fawkes Night has also faded. Some feel that Halloween has begun to overtake it in importance. However, Guy Fawkes remains an enigmatic figure world wide.
Guy Fawkes has even become a sympathetic figure. Since the publication of “V for Vendetta” comics, and especially since the release of the feature film, Guy Fawkes has become synonymous with anti-establishment revolution, and the Guy Fawkes mask, once an object of derision, has become a symbol of the struggle of the masses against the elites.
The Economist: How Guy Fawkes became the face of post-modern protest