Our history, our heritage, our culture, our language, our institutions, our laws, our values, and for the vast, overwhelming majority of white New Zealanders, even our blood itself, all come from the isles of Great Britain and Ireland.
One of the many traditions we have inherited is the celebration of Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night, on the 5th of November. This date has been commemorated for hundreds of years; in fact since decades before New Zealand was discovered by Tasman.
In 1605, a soldier named Guy Fawkes, with a number of other Anglo-Catholics attempted to blow up Parliament and kill King James the I and VI, who had unified the crowns of his native Scotland, and the joint kingdoms of England and Ireland two years earlier.
The plot was foiled, and the next year Parliament passed an act requiring that on the 5th of November, all ministers must read out an anti-Papist text after morning prayers. In 1607, the town of Canterbury in Kent celebrated with more than a hundred pounds of gunpowder.
The events continued, year after year. “Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot…” the old rhyme goes. And for centuries, the English people remembered. And when they sailed over the oceans to found new lands, they remembered there too.
Although it has been a very long time since Guy Fawkes was regularly observed in America, “Pope Day”, as it was there called, was still common until the American Revolution, and some small New England towns were still lighting bonfires in the 1880s and 90s.
In Canada, Guy Fawkes night commemorations are generally limited to a number of communities still holding onto the old tradition in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. In the mainland however, the tradition is currently undergoing a slight revival, for example in the Ontario town of Orangeville.
In Australia, the day was celebrated from the time of the first colonists; but was never quite to the same extent as in New Zealand or Britain, limited to only parts of the country, and disappearing in the mid-late 20th Century due to anti-firework legislation.
Out of all of the British Colonies, it is fair to say that New Zealand has best preserved the tradition of Guy Fawkes Night. That said, even we have lost many of the traditions; how many of you attend bonfires each year, and how many children do you see carting effigies around begging a penny for the guy?
Not many these days.
The celebrations in New Zealand go back to the first colonists, who, being overwhelmingly English, brought their ceremonies and traditions with them to the early settlements of Wellington, Nelson and New Plymouth.
In November 1845, effigies of Governor Robert FitzRoy, and his advisors Clarke and Swainson found themselves on a bonfire one November evening. A government representative ordered local constables to stop it, but this only “added to the general amusement”. The Auckland Times chided the Wellington and Nelson colonists for their “vulgarity”.
In the 1850s, in some areas the night was a Sectarian event. According to some, in places like Howick with larger than average Catholic communities, St. Patrick’s day would be celebrated by one half of the town, and Guy Fawkes Night by the other.
By the late 1800s though, it had become a cross-community celebration. Catholics and Protestants took part together, and effigies were often burnt not of Guy Fawkes himself, but of whoever was most unpopular in that place and time. President Kruger was a popular choice during the Boer War.
Looking through old records, many of the celebrations seem excessive by today’s standards.
In 1889, there were more than 100 effigies and bonfires burnt in the hills around Wellington, and fireworks “were heard in a continuous fusilade” for hours. In Christchurch, 1883, hundreds of Orangemen paraded through Christchurch on the day, headed by a marching band.
In the then tiny village of Thames, on that same day, it was said that “the young people are determined that Guy Fawkes and the gun powder plot shall not be forgotten. Never have I seen the occasion so thoroughly celebrated. I counted some two dozen bonfires on the hills.”
In 1932, the Te Puke celebrations, held in a Mr. F. E. Gemming’s paddock, included a bonfire, effigy burnings, maypole dancing, and a fireworks display, as well as the public discharge of four landmines. In 1927, a company in Mount Eden held a bonfire of seven hundred mattresses.
At the time, there were a few, rare attacks on the tradition. These were simple; some were opposed to celebrating the death of what they saw as a patriot, some (especially Catholics) were opposed to it for religious reasons, some thought the celebrations themselves were uncivilised or dangerous, and a very few thought they were outdated, in the same vein as “mummers, waits, Morris dancers, Jack in the green, May-poles and May-queen”.
At the time, old English traditions were on the down-turn, and the motivation for ending these ceremonies was mere desire for modernity, rather than any hatred towards British culture itself. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that Morris Dancing for example began to return to any prominence, thanks to the work of the folk revivalist Cecil Sharp and others.
Today though, and especially in the context of New Zealand, anti-Guy Fawkes arguments are often racial based, and motivated specifically by anti-British cultural hatred. With cities not simply banning fireworks, but switching their celebrations from Guy Fawkes Night to events such as “Matariki” or “Diwali”.
Take as an example Chris Eichbaum, a Professor of Victoria University and member of the Board of Directors of the Reserve Bank, who every year for the past three years has managed to get into regional and national media demanding an end to Guy Fawkes and private firework sales.
In this year’s piece, published in the Wairarapa Times Age, Eichbaum said “the petition was never about being the “fun police” and his petition still encouraged the use of fireworks by councils for events such as Matariki or Diwali.”, in other words, he isn’t against fireworks, he just wants us to celebrate alien ceremonies in place of our own.
“Matariki” and “Diwali” apparently are two days with infinite significance to the still-majority white population of this country. The Wairarapa region is about 90% white (of British and Scandinavian heritage). Yet, these events are supposed to be relevant? How many people in Masterton have even heard of Diwali?
This year, no major cities except for Palmerston North will hold the traditional public fireworks display on the 5th of November. Wellington removed this English tradition in 2017, in favour of Matariki and Diwali, despite the city still being 74% white according to the latest census.
Christchurch, a city literally founded by snobby English aristocrats joined the anti-British movement this year, with council events manager Tanya Cokojic deciding for the people of Christchurch that “Guy Fawkes is becoming increasingly irrelevant in New Zealand.”, and scrapping the formerly annual events.
“New Zealand is now more primed to celebrate our own culture and have something that is unique to us. A lot of those large-scale fireworks events are moving away from 5 November and they are moving away from being referred to as Guy Fawkes and I think that identifies that we want something that belongs to us, and is unique to us and our culture.”
Yeah, right. Matariki absolutely represents the culture and heritage of a city named Christ Church, after a 16th-century English university college and cathedral.
The truth is that Matariki, and even more so Diwali, are completely irrelevant to practically all European New Zealanders, and many if not most other New Zealanders as well; whereas Guy Fawkes Night has been a part of our culture since before we were even “New Zealanders”.
“New Zealand is now more primed to celebrate our own culture”, what does Mrs Cokojic mean by this, when the actions of her council and all other cities bar one have turned their back on our culture?
Does she think that New Zealand is a nation of exclusively Hindu Maoris? If so, then perhaps Diwali and Matariki would be acceptable.
But while British blood flows through my veins, and the British people remain the majority of this country’s population; the attack on British traditions like Guy Fawkes Night are unjustified and are clearly only one part of the greater anti-White movement.
Don’t let them take your traditions.
If your city doesn’t hold a public display; buy fireworks yourself. If fireworks are banned, then light a bonfire. If one day, those too are banned. You can always remember.
the Fifth of November,
the gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason
why the gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.