Fireworks for Guy Fawkes
New Zealanders celebrate with fireworks on the same night as Britain – Guy Fawkes.
This tradition is more than 400 years old and comes from a plot by Guy Fawkes and 11 other men to blow up the British Parliament – the “Gunpowder Plot”. The men including Guy were caught before they could light the barrels of gunpowder. Every year since on November 5th there has been celebrations with fireworks, gunpowder and bonfires, along with a reading in the British Parliament.
In New Zealand there is very little focus on the reason for the celebration. It is simply a good occasion to get together with friends and family for some start of summer fun.
In New Zealand there are strict rules around buying and selling fireworks. Fireworks are only sold for the four days up to Guy Fawkes – November 2nd to 5th. You must be 18 years old and have valid ID to buy fireworks, just like alcohol. There are also rules about what types of fireworks are sold, and you may not be able to find the same ones as in your home country.
There are no rules about when during the year you can set fireworks off, however there are some rules about where.
Many local councils have laws that stop people from lighting fireworks in public places such as parks or beaches. It is best to only light fireworks on your own property, far away from anything that could catch fire.
You should also show respect to your neighbours, especially those with young children or pets. This can be done by putting fireworks away after 10.30 pm – the sun sets at about 8 pm so that leaves plenty of time to have fun. If you are using fireworks for a cultural celebration or festival let your neighbours know. Most people will not expect to hear fireworks at other times of year.
If you are saving fireworks for New Year’s Eve or cultural celebrations remember to store them safely.
- in their original packaging
- in a dry place
- away from heat and sources of ignition
- away from flammable materials like petrol or paint
- in a locked container or cabinet.
When using fireworks at home it is important to follow the Fire and Emergency New Zealand safety guidelines.
These remind you to:
- follow instructions on fireworks
- read them with a torch
- light them away from things that could catch fire
- be careful when drinking alcohol
- only let adults light fireworks
- have cold water on hand
- do not relight fireworks that do not go off
- put any burns under cold water for 20 minutes
- never point fireworks towards another person.
The safest and most spectacular way to celebrate Guy Fawkes is to attend a public display. Most towns and cities have free displays put on by councils, schools or businesses. These are held on Guy Fawkes night or during the weekend before or after. Public displays have bigger, more exciting fireworks than you can buy, and are a great night out for families. Look online for details of your local display.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has guidelines about Guy Fawkes and pets. Many pets, especially dogs, can be very scared by the lights and sounds of fireworks.
Some basic tips to help your dog are:
- take them for a big walk to make them tired for the night
- give them plenty of food
- keep them indoors with the curtains closed
- have the radio or television on as background noise
- act normal – comforting your dog could make things worse.
You can read more about caring for animals on Guy Fawkes on the SPCA website.