The Quick 10: Happy Belated Guy Fawkes Day!

I guess with all of the election stuff going on here in the States, we here at the _floss completely overlooked that yesterday was Guy Fawkes Day. While it may not be a huge celebration (or even a celebration at all) in the U.S., it's quite a big deal in Great Britain. It's also observed in certain parts of Canada, South Africa, the Caribbean and New Zealand). So, in at attempt to make it up to the late Mr. Fawkes, I thought we'd honor him (I suppose "honor" him would be more appropriate) with the Q10 today.


1. First of all "“ why does Guy Fawkes deserve his own holiday? Well, in 1605, he was in charge of carrying out the Gunpowder Plot: he and his group of men conspired to kill the King, his family, and lots of other important people by blowing up the House of Lords. The plot was foiled. It's my understanding (I know you guys will correct me if I'm wrong) that the festivities are basically a mockery of Guy Fawkes and a celebration that the King was safe. Although there are certain factions of people who celebrate Fawkes himself, I'm sure.

2. In order to blow up the House of Lords while Parliament was meeting (thus taking out the most number of people possible), Guy Fawkes and his group hid more than 1,800 pounds of gunpowder underneath the building in the cellar. They hid it beneath various scraps of wood and iron.

3. Legend has it that the plan was foiled at the very last possible second "“ Guy Fawkes himself was just about to touch his torch to the gunpowder (he had made it quite clear that he didn't mind blowing himself up as well as the House of Lords) when magistrate Peter Heywood grabbed the torch.

4. Fawkes was severely tortured for his actions. At first he refused to give his name, insisting that he went by "John Johnson." The King instructed that the torture should get increasingly worse the longer Fawkes held out. It took four days before Fawkes admitted anything, and that was only after he found out his friends had already been captured.

5. Fawkes and his co-conspirators were ultimately all hanged, drawn and quartered for their crimes.

6. Anarchists love this guy: a famous poster in the mid-20th century declared that Guy Fawkes was "The only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions." But the phrase has been around for a long time "“ probably since the day after he was captured.

vendetta7. He's also very popular in literature. J.K. Rowling named Dumbledore's phoenix after him and he is referenced in everything from Jane Eyre and David Copperfield to Fahrenheit 451 and V for Vendetta. The masks, specifically, are based on him.

8. Traditional food eaten on Guy Fawkes night include bonfire toffee, toffee apples, baked potatoes and black peas with vinegar. I get the bonfire toff and the baked potatoes, but black peas and toffee apples are beyond my comprehension. I bet one of you _flossy readers knows, though.

9. There are all kinds of rhymes and songs and poems based on Mr. Fawkes. I really like this one:

Guy guy guy
Poke him in the eye,
Put him on the bonfire,
And there let him die.

It's the perfect rhyme for school children, don't you think? But it goes well with our final fact:

10. It's not uncommon for people to burn effigies of Guy Fawkes in giant bonfires. It used to be much more widely practiced, however. Kids also get to collect pennies for "the guy" "“ for his eyes, I presume?? It's kind of like trick-or-treating for UNICEF, except the kids get to keep the money.

So, happy belated Guy Fawkes Day. if you celebrated, leave us a comment and let us know what traditions you followed.

Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.


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