Guy Fawkes and the Failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605

November 5, 2013

So back in England, in 1605 -when the assassination of monarchs was a bit more straight forward- a chap named Guy Fawkes stockpiled heaps and heaps of gunpowder in the cellar below the House of Lords. He and his cohorts were in the business of offing King James I, who had the audacity to not be Catholic, and therefore needed to be off-ed.

To make a short story shorter, someone tipped off the local authorities and early on the morning of November 5, 1605 they cruised on down to see the gunpowder stash. And who’s shift was it to be the guard? Poor ‘ol Guy. So with a “trial” consisting of questioning and torture (has anything changed? jk! jk!) he finally confessed and was set to be hung on January 31. On the big day, he jumped off the scaffolding where his noose was hanging (where were those guards?) and broke his neck, avoiding the public humiliation of the scheduled execution.

On the evening of November 5, 1605, King James I encouraged his countrymen to celebrate his escape from assassination. Tradition has continued since the day of the discovery, and now- 408 years later- Guy Fawkes Day is still celebrated in England… and apparently New Zealand, or as I’m starting to think of it “New Zengland”. The tradition now is to build a bonfire on the beach, and build a scarecrow like “Guy” who gets burned in the fire (historically inaccurate!!!). Also, everyone lights off their own fireworks, and in big cities a large fireworks display is put on. Guy Fawkes Day has also become known as Bonfire Day, Fireworks Day, and Plot Night.

Driving around Christchurch, I noticed heaps of advertisements for fireworks for sale, but somehow missed this whole Guy Fawkes thing. I figured they were just on sale early for New Years (how would I know?!)… then I noticed they were only on sale for 3 days, up to November 5th. Odd. Still, I didn’t dig any deeper until a doctor at work asked if I was going to partake in Fireworks Day. Say what? So then she proceeded to tell me the whole saga (she’s British), and explain how we celebrate now. I’m still a bit stuck on how “Fireworks Day” is a thing. Could New Zealand be any cooler?

So last night was Guy Fawkes Fire Works Plot Day Night. The big to-do happens on New Brighton Beach. Although New Brighton is only a 15 minute drive from here, we opted to head 5 minutes down the hill to Sumner. New Brighton was doing the whole big firework thing at the pier, accompanied by James Bond music (your guess is as good as mine… if Guy Fawkes channeled a little James Bond, we wouldn’t be having this holiday). The beach at Sumner has a good view of the New Brighton pier though, so we opted out of James Bond night, and met up with some friends and our own fireworks.

Turns out $25NZD will get you a pretty decent sized box of fireworks- although most of them were kind of the wimpy kid kind. Scott did buy the box that said “Family Pack” on it… oops.

Our buddies brought some decent mortars and roman candles (which definitely did not result in fireworks fights, because that would be unsafe) and some people on the beach had gotten ahold of some real deal fireworks. For about 2 hours, the shoreline was nothing but pops and bangs of explosives, which I’m sure the local dogs were thrilled about.

The big fireworks display on the pier was pretty dang impressive, but too far away to take a decent photo of. All of the fireworks pictures are just the “little” ones you can buy in the grocery store (3 days each year!) And nobody built a “Guy” to burn. How disappointing!

So it’s no 4th of July… but theres a similar feel and its the closest I’m gonna get (since obviously New Zealand isn’t exactly independent of England- ha!). So I’ll take it!

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1 Comment

  • Reply fireworks england November 21, 2013 at 9:01 am

    I just loved my fireworks tour! How wonderful to be able to hear the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the stars. I bet it was fantastic.

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