Penny For the Pope

Guy Fawkes celebration last night. It was raining so I am not sure if they did the bonfire but the kids were all over town, carrying a hollow turnip and asking for a “Penny for the Pop [Pope]” or in some cases “Penny to burn the Pope'”. I have tried to find stories of how the Guy Fawkes message got morphed with Reformation thinking. All i have come up with is that a penny used to be the Parish tax in Orkney Islands and after the Reformation, the penny no longer needed to be sent to the Pope. Somehow the Guy and the Pope got their wires crossed and we now have a hybrid celebration that doesnt really make sense. If you have any more info, let me know.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • joe says:

    I know this isn’t answering the question, but the town of Lewes in Suffolk has a very famous bonfire event which includes burning the pope.
    It is said that this originates from a memorial to the public burning of protestants by Queen Mary in the 17 century (ie predating Guy Fawkes). Mind you, Guy Fawkes was a very prominent Roman Catholic so I guess there isn’t much of a leap of imagination. Yuk, I don’t advise into the wikipedia section too closely..

  • daniel says:

    There was an article on Guy Fawkes on Harper’s yesterday, including info on why George Washington banned its celebration (via Andrew Sullivan):
    For [Washington], America was involved in a struggle for its liberty, and the commemoration of Guy Fawkes stood for the opposite: government by fear, oppression of a minority, a celebration of arbitrary power. Guy Fawkes Day was the abnegation of the essential values of the Revolution. So the original George W. put it in an order: No more Guy Fawkes Day.

  • Why O Why does it always rain on Guy Fawkes night? Once again we have a household of angry young males with Fireworks will being delayed till the weekend!

  • Perhaps it’s a reflection of some deep desire to blow up the Vatican…

  • Mike O says:

    The penny is “Peter’s Pence”. It is a tax on each English Catholic, that is sent to Rome and used to build the Vatican (St. Peter’s). One penny a year per Catholic. It started around 800, and ended under Henry VIII.'s_Pence
    Guy Fawkes day is a “techie holiday” in the US. It is the last day (about) to send out a resume and (hopefully) get a new job before Christmas. On the West Coast (where many techies live), it’s the beginning of the rainy season, so paper is used to start the obligatory bonfire. Before on-line job hunting, the paper came from old resumes.

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