Yep – I’m back to trash another of our treasured commercial fests (sorry festivals). Guy Fawkes Night – what’s that all about? Well these days it’s just a great big excuse to sell truckloads of nasty fireworks to people who mostly use them in an offensive way. Bangers (and the bigger the noise the better) not rockets and sparklers are coming to a neighbourhood near you. And it is mostly adults or at least teenagers who are the target market.
I grew up in another time where Guy Fawkes was very much a children’s festival. Children still made guys and towed them round the neighbourhood to raise money. The fireworks you could buy depended on this and how diligent you had been in saving pocket money as much as how much your parents stumped up. There were often shared events which made your fireworks go further often including real bonfires which kids collected fuel for and helped to build. They were magic evenings with catherine wheels your father nailed to a post, sparklers and rockets and different crackers that you sat in a tin and which gave off emerald or gold or purple showers. And of course bangers and double happys – those little strings of red mini crackers boys loved tossing around the place.
Of course it wasn’t all fun – kids messed about with fireworks and injured themselves, pets were scared and scarred and bonfires and rogue rockets caused problems for the fire brigade. And sometimes it was cold and wet and you all huddled on the porch while the long suffering Dads tried to get things going. This set from Digital NZ captures some of Guy Fawkes past and present.
So if you are looking to celebrate Guy Fawkes today my suggestion is – try to get to one of the great community fireworks events. If you want to celebrate at home invite friends and family and make your shared fireworks go further. Buy beauty not bangs. A bang is quickly over but fireworks that display can bring joy for longer.
And let’s not forget – November 5 is the occasion to remember a home grown act of resistance against the government – Parihaka. Guy Fawkes wanted to blow up Parliament with gunpowder. At Parihaka the people used passive resistance long before Gandhi brought it into prominence. Maybe we should remove the commercialisation of Guy Fawkes and have only community events with beautiful displays of fireworks. This might give more space to celebrating a different way in Aotearoa by remembering Te Whiti and the people of Parihaka.