Monday, November 05, 2007

Twilight for Guy Fawkes?

It may be that Guy Fawkes is fading in New Zealand. Last year, I wrote how I just don't get its relevance here.

It essentially celebrates the foiling of a plot by Catholics to topple the Protestant King of England and the Protestant aristocracy. Given its focus on the English monarchy and ruling elite (England at the time offered very little power to common people) along with its strong anti-Catholic message, what relevance does that have to modern New Zealand?

Of course, to modern New Zealanders (especially those born here), Guy Fawkes is nothing more than a fireworks extravaganza. The historic roots, having so little relevance here, are largely ignored. But the last remaining tenuous link with England's Guy Fawkes Day may soon be broken.

This year, the government shortened the sale period for fireworks from 10 days to four days prior to Guy Fawkes (November 5), and raised the purchase age from 14 to 18. A complete ban is still possible, as the Fire Service and SPCA want, but the government may wait and see how this year went. It's been a cool, rainy weekend over most of New Zealand, and that's helped reduce the risk of fires.

Ironically, there were injuries this year at official public fireworks displays, long promoted as an alternative to personal fireworks. Taken together—these injuries and the wet weather—I'd guess that Guy Fawkes will probably limp along for a couple more years, but I say it's inevitable that one day people in New Zealand will no longer “remember, remember the fifth of November.”


Nik said...

I've been stunned by how awful Guy Fawkes is here - makes July 4 seem pedestrian. It's the sheer size of firepower people are using, fireworks that are never sold in the US, and the fact that they're lighting them off not just on GFD, but for bloody weeks before and afterwards. Last year we heard fireworks in FEBRUARY that were stashed away. I have to agree with Helen Clark's comment that it sounded like Afghanistan in Mt. Eden last night. It's all rather ridiculously over the top, I'd rather see them banned and just have public displays here.

Arthur Schenck said...

I had the same reaction. I remember my first Guy Fawkes in NZ (a few days after I arrived) and I couldn't believe the kind and amount of fireworks that were for sale. My new prediction is that there won't be any ban until at least 2009, because next year is an election year.