With Guy Fawkes (or ‘Bonfire Night’ here) safely (for most of us) out of the way, I thought I’d write quick post to let you know about a few things which are different in the home of the tradition.
The first point is obvious. They don’t actually make any reference to Guy Fawkes. I’m told that this was encouraged so that the association with the Roman Catholic conspiracy to blow up the houses of parliament was somewhat split from the modern celebration.
Also different here is the fact that people do actually have open bonfires. In New Zealand (or at least in Auckland city where I’m from) it’s illegal to have open fires, so we stick to fireworks.
Here the make effigies of Guy Fawkes (known as “guys”) and they are thrown onto the bonfires. Hmmm.
I also understand that it’s tradition for kids to make a “guy” and then go around houses collecting money, “penny for the guy” being the traditional catch-cry.
One of my colleagues was sharing a few stories from his childhood. Him and his friends were too lazy to actually make a guy, so they decided they would get one of them to lie on the ground, throw a jacket over his head and go around making their fortunes.
They went to a few houses, collected a few pennies and went to the next house where an old lady came to the door. “Sorry boys, I don’t have any money tonight, could you come back tomorrow?” The boys grudgingly gave up on the old lady and turned to leave, at which point “the guy” got up with his mates. The old lady “screamed and nearly had a heart attack” and the boys took off.
So on Monday night we went home and were a bit freaked out when a massive bonfire was lit almost right outside our window. Later in the evening they even started throwing aerosol cans into the fire. I’m not convinced these activities were entirely legal.
On Sunday night we went to the North Tyneside Council firework display (along with thousands of others) and were treated to a great twenty minute display. The highlight was when one of the larger fireworks didn’t make it off the platform, then exploded into the crowd who were about fourty metres away. I heard that there had been some ambulances around, hopefully they weren’t related.
So it will be a bit tame if we’re back in New Zealand for next year’s Guy Fawkes celebrations. Especially since it looks like fireworks sales are going to be outlawed altogether.