We’ve been in New Zealand nearly a year now. It seems every week I uncover something else I didn’t know about it. They celebrate Guy Fawkes night here, which is strange to me.
Guy Fawkes always seemed the most fiercely local of the festivals I grew up celebrating. Halloween was just messing around. An excuse for a party. Christmas was an excuse to have three types of pudding and fall asleep on the sofa by 8pm. Easter meant chocolate eggs and nothing else. What else was there? Nothing much.
Guy Fawkes night really brought people together though. There was an energy to it. Not relatives from afar, but neighbours and friends, and friends of friends. The celebrations of my childhood were spent mostly in somebody’s back garden. Gathered round a bonfire in the winter dark.
I don’t remember the fireworks from back then. Only the sparklers. Spinning mad crackling circles of fire in the cold air. Small hands writing their names in light. A singed glove. Cold feet.
Thinking back to those nights I can feel them more than see them. Not like Christmas, or Halloween. My memories of those are snapshots of the ephemera. Clothes and decorations and food. But Guy Fawkes night is a feeling. Bodies packed together, breath misting. Fire. Nervous excitement.
It’s the festival that feels most like home. So why does seeing it here make me feel suddenly alien?
They just do things differently here.