READER REPORT:

Put Guy Fawkes on the bonfire

JOHN STRINGER
Last updated 13:54 19/11/2012
Guy Fawkes
LUKE MACGREGOR/ Reuters

FESTIVE: Southern England town of Lewes residents embrace the spirit of Guy Fawkes, dressing for the night as they burn effigies.

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Replace Guy Fawkes with a Kiwi Thanksgiving? Guy Fawkes Night is November 5, Veterans/Armistice Day is November 11, and Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November.

Canterbury Anniversary is also celebrated in November (Cup week), a massive celebration of agricultural bounty and harvest.

Why not consider replacing Guy Fawkes night and rolling Veterans Day into an Australasian Thanksgiving?

With the merchandising intrusion of American Halloween into New Zealand (which I do not support) schools and parents are already crafting Kiwi alternatives to Halloween, like 'Rainbow Parties' and 'Family Harvest' etc; many families are seeking more positive relationship-building traditions for their children as an alternative to the negative gothic associations of Halloween.

Thanksgiving is a great celebration. It is very cultural to America (and Canada), remembering the Indian support of food and sustenance of the first pioneers that awful first winter.

It could easily transpose to New Zealand. Maori sustained the early New Zealand pioneers in their first difficult years with food, shelter and protection too. So why not?

An Australasian Thanksgiving would be equally cognizant of Maori as well as Pakeha, so it could be a celebration of both our initial cultures as well as incoming modern immigrants.

They could embrace this new tradition as a away of integrating and participating in ‘New Zealandness.’

A friend of mine has for years sought to transform Guy Fawkes Night into Parihaka Day as a celebration of the non-violent spirit of Te Whiti and Tohu and the destruction of Parihaka on November 5, 1881 (the same day as Guy Fawkes).

We could continue to use fireworks, just let them off in Thanksgiving for good things in New Zealand rather than bad things in England in 1605 (The Observance of 5th November Act) and English anti-Catholic sentiment.

We need not import all the American traditions, but craft our own as a transformation of the meaningless Guy Fawkes Night.

The latter simply celebrates the hanging, drawing and quartering by the Protestant establishment of the Catholic Gunpowder Plotters who tried to blow up the English House of Lords.

Other than a vague allusion to protecting the establishment (in Mother England) and a ghastly execution, it has no historic bearing on New Zealand and celebrates an evisceration.

We abandoned our ‘House of Lords' (The Legislative Chamber) in 1951.

Our own Thanksgiving would go wider, celebrating New Zealand’s unique blessings and “giving thanks” to God consistent with the sentiments of our National Anthem 'God of Nations'.

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This sentiment can be embraced by any religion, or none, as it is simply a celebration and thanks (to God or each other) of everything we enjoy. People can apply it as relevant to them.

If we went for turkeys, chickens, or perhaps seafood as a national dish on the day, this would create jobs and encourage commerce, shopping and help the retail sector.

Pavlova could become an official thanksgiving dessert (it is claimed by both Australia and New Zealand; it celebrates a Russian ballet dancer’s tour Downunder).

Apart from Labour Day on October 2, there is a six month non-holiday gap in our year, between Queen’s Birthday (June 4) and Christmas Day (December 25).

November is also a time of year when kids are sitting exams, the pressure is off teachers, and we are all tired after a long year. It would be a one-day break, and a warm up towards the Christmas holiday season.

It is well in to Spring and the fishing season is underway, with whitebait and argentina retropinna (‘silveries’) spawning up our rivers.

Perhaps children could celebrate with silver and seafood themes, like we do with eggs and bunnies at Easter or gold baubles and pine trees at Christmas.

Churches could easily build a ‘thanksgiving’ into their church festival calendars and weave it relevantly into the ecclesiastical rituals and calendar of our social celebratory year.

Consolidating Veterans/Armistice Day and an Australasian version of Thanksgiving instead of Guy Fawkes Night makes sense to me and would enrich the tail end of the New Zealand year.

Holiday Dates

New Year's Day January 1

Day after NYD January 2

Waitangi Day February 6

Good Friday varies April

Easter Monday varies April

ANZAC Day April 25

Queen’s Birthday first Monday in June

Labour Day fourth Monday in October

Christmas Day December 25

Boxing Day December 26


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