As soon as the first leaves begin to fall people start to collect piles of wood and other combustable materials in the centre of the village green. By the beginning of November they have created an enormous bonfire in front of the village church.
On November the 5th we would travel a couple of hours in the car up to stay at Nan and Grandads for the night. We would wrap up in hat, scarfs and gloves, and join in the torch lit procession to light the bonfire. Yes they really did hand small children lit torches made from oil socked rags tied to branches. It was awesome. Only a few people were unfortunate enough to loose the odd strand of hair.
We would then have cups of soup, watch the pig being roasted on a spit and end the evening with fireworks.
I have to say I miss this. In New Zealand it is just not the same. Understandably as its not Autumn there are no bonfires and the fireworks, although good, start late at night as it's spring. It also lacks the whole pagan atmosphere that the British bonfire nights tend to have. After all it is all about burning someone alive. It is a good bit of gruesome fun which unfortunately this former British colony finds difficult to replicate. And perhaps that's the point, maybe it should not be trying to replicate something that originates on the other side of the world. Maybe it should be creating its own traditions.
However due to the large expat community Guy Fawkes is still big here and Wellington Council puts on an annual firework display in the harbour. It is pretty spectacular watching the fireworks light up the harbour from one side to the other. The atmosphere in the city is great. The waterfront was full of families like us this year, wrapped up against the wind and eating food from the many stalls dotted along the water.
This was the last Guy Fawkes fireworks display the the council is going to put on. They have decided to celebrate Matariki instead. This is the Maori name for a cluster of stars that rise in mid-winter and signifies the start of the new year. I think this is a far better idea and more appropriate than celebrating a thwarted attempt to blow up the parliament of a country on the other side of the world!