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'Remember, Remember the Fifth of November' vs. the Festival of Lights: Battle for the night sky

By Melissa Bell
(Sriparna Ghosh)

Guy Fawkes Day has always been the most confusing holiday. It's a celebration of the worst traitor in the history of England -- a homegrown terrorist who plotted to kill the Protestant king of England by setting the parliament building ablaze in the infamous Gunpowder Plot.

Yes, the British are celebrating the fact that he was captured and the plot squashed. But then why not call it Guy Fawkes Failed Day? He's also, thanks to Alan Moore's graphic novel, become a symbol for anti-authority activists and somewhat of a folk hero. (Perhaps I'm just jealous we don't get giant bonfire celebrations in the United States. Where's our Benedict Arnold Day?)

Regardless, the holiday is a big deal in England, with bonfires, effigies of old Guy Fawkes and flaring Roman candles. It falls every year on Nov. 5, the anniversary of the night in 1605 that Fawkes was captured.

The Catholic Fawkes, though, will have some Hindu and Sikh competition this year. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, falls on the same day. The holiday usually falls in late October or early November, depending on the position of the moon. It is supposed to fall on the darkest night of the month and is celebrated by the lighting of candles, called diyas, and setting off fireworks.

Rather than treachery, though, the holiday celebrates the triumphant return of the Hindu king Ram and his wife Sita to their kingdom after a 14-year exile. (Of course, Ram subsequently exiled Sita again a few days later, but that part isn't celebrated as much.)

The Independent predicts a heightened level of celebrations this year, thanks to the combination of the two holidays. It is the first time since 1972 the two holidays have coincided.

Here's the famous Guy Fawkes poem as imagined in the movie remake of Alan Moore's "V for Vendetta:"

The first three minutes of this clip show Sita and Ram's return. It's taken from "Sita Sings the Blues," which is a fantastic movie.

By Melissa Bell  | November 5, 2010; 8:39 AM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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