Happy Guy Fawkes Day

Way back in 1605, a small group of Catholic conspirators attempted to blow up the British House of Lords.  They rented a small space in the basement, filled it with gunpowder...but were ratted out by an undercover agent on November 5.  The best-known member of the group was a convert to Catholicism named Guy (or Guido) Fawkes.

Henceforth, November 5 is celebrated throughout the English-speaking Protestant world...sort of.  This practice bears particular significance regarding the beginning of the American Revolution.  How?  Back in colonial Boston, Guy Fawkes Day was a local tradition...and bad news for the Catholic population.  The mob that formed for the occasion eventually morphed into the Sons of Liberty.  They began to hold secret meetings to plan their anti-British activities.  Their cover was the innocuous getting together of shipwrights, AKA "caulkers" — hence the derivation of the word "caucus" to describe a closed-door meeting.  After all, it's the same word, but with a Boston accent.

Anti-Catholic sentiment was a part of American life for many years after the Revolution.  Displays of Christmas were severely suppressed up until around the time of the Civil War...hence, American Christmas is particularly Victorian.  No Catholic was able to become president until 1960.  The first attempt ever was by four-term New York governor Al Smith in 1928.

It's kind of hard to imagine American Catholics being discriminated against, but it harkens back to 1605...and, fortunately (in the U.S., at least) it's not a big deal anymore.

Image: Public Domain.

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