A fun Guy
There are some very good arguments for celebrating Matariki instead of (or as well as) Guy Fawkes, but whatever the rationale behind the celebration, it's wonderful to experience such a rare example of collective merrymaking. While there was the inevitable mayhem around the country, some have suggested that Wellington's relatively good-natured night was due to the organised Sky Show. Wellington is topographically perfect for such a show, thanks to our harbour amphitheatre, and I'd argue that our temperament suits it too: as a more "urban" city than most other New Zealand towns, we're happy to gather in the central city and enjoy the crowds, rather than shut ourselves off in our back yards and let off our own private fireworks.
And it's the public nature of the spectacle, more than the fireworks themselves, that I most enjoyed. There was something almost Bakhtinian about the carnival atmosphere last night; a sense of license and a willingness to get a bit silly in public that our actual carnivals don't quite achieve on such a scale. Combined with the Golden Oldies (including a very rave-esque light show), the Jazz Festival, the choice of other dates to commemorate (some chose to mark Dia de los Muertos or Parihaka instead) and relatively clement weather, it all added up to a hell of a night.
Of course, every party has its hangover, and today the high-tide mark at Oriental Bay was a near-continuous line of toxic rubbish. There's also a certain irony that yesterday was the International Day of Action on Climate Change: I wonder how much greenhouse gas all those explosions produced? And there will no doubt be plenty of ratepayers who would prefer their money to be spent on something other than such frivolities. But it's hard to put a price on the sort of goodwill, sense of excitement and pride in living in a great city that it generates.
(Thanks to James @ NZ for the first photo.)