November 5 is Guy Fawkes Day – he was part of the “Gunpowder Plot” in Merry Olde England, way back in who knows when (15-something? 16-something? Sounds about right) – a group tried to blow up Parliament and the royals, and Guy Fawkes was selected to stay with the barrels of gunpowder overnight. He was caught. He was found guilty (it was pretty obvious) – and was sentenced to death by hanging. He jumped off the gallows platform and died that way, instead. So the tradition I’ve always read about is that a scarecrow-type figure is made of Guy, and he’s burned on bonfires all over England. In effigy. Delayed justice in perpetuity. Something like that.
I asked a group of New Zealanders on the elevator if one wishes someone “Happy Guy Fawkes Day” – they laughed and said that isn’t usually said that way, and the young man in the group said it isn’t exactly a happy occasion. I pointed out that the assassination plot was foiled, so it was sort of happy. They agreed, but also said that no one says “Happy Guy Fawkes Day.”
The tradition in THIS part of the British Commonwealth is to shoot off fireworks – personal fireworks, starting last night – and a large community-funded event of fireworks, tonight at 9 PM. Not symbolizing the death of Guy, but maybe what Parliament being blown up might have looked like, had the plot not been uncovered? Blowing up Parliament by proxy? It seems odd, and no one we’ve chatted with has a good answer – they all agree it’s just odd. (We especially liked the two senior police officers who were timing recruits running up and down the quay – they were very funny, and we joked about the fireworks as a celebration.)
Richard and I spent the evening along the waterfront, walking around, having a bite of dinner, scoping out the perfect spot to watch the fireworks. We ended up along a wall, in an elevated park that’s above some shops in front and a parking garage in back. It was the perfect spot, aligned with the two barges in the inner harbor, so that we had a front and center view of the fireworks.
I didn’t take photos of the fireworks, I just enjoyed this amazing show. (The photos here ARE from the Guy Fawkes Day fireworks in Wellington, gathered from the internet - just so you can get some idea of what we saw.) Phenomenal. Gorgeous. Synchronized fireworks in all colors and all directions, doubled and twinned and conjoined in the air from the two barges. Exponential fireworks. Some of the BEST fireworks I’ve ever seen!
And we enjoyed the crowd – mostly teenagers and young couples, but plenty of families and tourists and the professional photographer next to us who was chatty. It felt somewhat like Carnival, but it was cold. Bitingly cold. With a stinging wind out of the south (and probably blowing direct from Antarctica) and intermittent rain. We both had on half our clothing, it seemed, under our rain jackets, and we still felt the cold.
But those fireworks were so worth it!!!