Fireworks went on sale recently and even though Guy Fawke’s night is over people are still setting them off each night. Most pet owners dread this time of year. Our wee darlings and big tough pets alike crumble into anxious dribblers.
My ditzy fluff-ball Zac (pictured with his favourite toy pig) whimpers and tries to hide behind my legs. I heard swaddling them helps them feel safe. I tried a tight-fitting jersey which seems to work a treat during fireworks, thunderstorms, earthquakes etc.
Human beings. We can be a bit disappointing sometimes can’t we? We’re often very easily swayed by things that are bright and shiny rather than other more meaningful things.
Take for instance the event we usually commemorate on 5 November, Guy Fawkes Day. Four hundred years ago in England a group of people plotted to blow up the King and Parliament. The plot was foiled and Fawkes (among others) was caught , tried and executed.
And this would probably be no more than a barely remembered fact from high school history class if explosives weren’t involved. Because we love a bit of a fireworks display, we choose to remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.
Parihaka, a very different kind of protest, doesn’t get as much attention even though it’s far more recent and took place in our own country.
The Māori settlement of Parihaka, Taranaki was home to around 2000 people. In the wake of the Land Wars many Māori had become dispossessed as the Government of the time had undertaken “confiscations” of land. A movement to resist this acquisition and occupation of Māori land had grown, but rather than warfare, peaceful means were used to undermine Government “ownership” of disputed lands. Surveyor pegs were removed, fences were built, fields were ploughed.
By 1881 the Government determined that this peaceful but disruptive protest should come to an end, so on 5 November a militia and armed constabulary of 1500 men invaded the settlement of Parihaka. They were met without resistance. The settlement, and its surrounding crops were eventually destroyed. The leaders of the movement Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi were sent south and jailed, as were a number of men, some of whom never returned.
So, in both cases the Government of the day is accused of injustice – one group chooses a violent protest, the other a peaceful one – but it’s the former that we commemorate. Hmmm. Interesting.
But should you want to pay tribute to the fearless, peaceful protestors of Parihaka you have the opportunity. Lyttelton Community House invite you to attend their Annual Parihaka Remembrance service. This will be held on Thursday, 5th November, 10am at the Lyttelton Rose Garden – (Former Gaol site). From there you are also invited to attend a second service that will be held at the memorial stone next to the church at Rapaki at 11am. Light refreshments will be served afterwards. Please phone Christine on 741-1427 if you require further information.
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.
5th November. What does this date bring to mind for you? I bet some of you have been perusing the pages of a certain mailer, deliberating over which fireworks package to purchase for Family fireworks night? I imagine that for many people if they associate anything with this date it is most Guy Fawkes, who was one of the plotters and would-be perpetrators of that unsuccessful attempt at regicide in Britain on 5 November 1605 – The Gunpowder plot.
The community at Parihaka grew following the land wars and as a result of the “confiscation” of land (often enabled legally through the Government passing legislation) in the Taranaki area. In addition to the continuing land grab, the government of the time also failed to set aside the reserve land it had promised to the local peoples. In response to this, the citizens of Parihaka lead by the prophets, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi established a movement of peaceful resistance to protest the actions of the Crown. Government officials feared that Parihaka might well incite more iwi to rebel against Government policies and set about destroying the peaceful resistance movement by means of an armed invasion and the destruction of the settlement of Parihaka.
It is said that on the day of the invasion the soldiers were greeted by singing children (tātarakihi) and the followers of Te Whiti and Tohu put up no resistance. Many of the men involved in the peaceful resistance movement were detained- some were imprisoned for years without trial and were transported to prisons in the South Island or sentenced to hard manual labour in places like Dunedin, where they built many of the buildings and roads. Some of them would perish here from tuberculosis.
So there we go, a brief look at significant date in our national history. Interested in learning more? We have a great page of resources if you’re interested in reading more.
Stuck for something to do this weekend and thinking you would like to learn more about the history of events that took place at Parihaka? This weekend in Christchurch there are screenings of the film Tātarakihi , The children of Parihaka. A true story of war passive resistance and the children who never forgot. This film has been part of the New Zealand International Film Festival and has received rave reviews. The website will take you through to local screening times and venues and you can view a trailer of the film as well. I intend to get to the Sunday screening.
No doubt we will still celebrate Mr Fawkes trying to kill his King at my place this weekend, but I think I will also look a little closer to home and remember the events of 5/11/1881 in Parihaka, Taranaki come Monday. Will you be doing anything to commemorate the 5th of November?