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The Herald on Sunday editorial

Herald on Sunday editorial: Fireworks, yes; Guy Fawkes, no

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File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

Ask any 10 people why last night's widespread pyrotechnic mayhem goes by the name of Guy Fawkes and only a couple will have more than the vaguest idea.

Little wonder: it's an alien celebration that belongs to a distant past and resonates here no more than July 4 and 14, respectively the big day for Americans and the French, or the Mexicans' Day of the Dead.

It marks, of course, the 1605 Gunpowder Plot when the said Mr Fawkes, who has often been described as the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions, was found underneath the House of Lords, standing guard over 36 barrels of gunpowder which he and his co-conspirators planned to detonate while the hated Protestant King James 1 was in attendance. They were hung, drawn and quartered for their pains.

More than 400 years on, and on the other side of the world, it does seem a rather quaint anachronism. We don't dance round the maypole with Jack-in-the-green on Mayday.

This is not to say that there's anything wrong with the idea of letting off fireworks: they are a time-honoured manner of marking celebrations - from the opening of the Rugby World Cup to Diwali, the Indian "festival of light", which was less than a fortnight ago.

But there is a good argument to be made for co-opting Guy Fawkes and making it our own. Matariki, the beginning of the planting new year in the Maori calendar, provides the perfect alternative date. It is in late May or early June when darkness falls earlier, so keeping the excited littlies up is not such a problem.

A transfer could go hand in hand with replacing the Queen's Birthday holiday with one recognising Matariki. We still get to make light and sparks and have fun - but we do it for our own reasons, not to recognise a bunch of long-dead Jesuits.

- Herald on Sunday

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