Yesterday was 5th of November, and here in the UK that means Guy Fawke’s Night, also called Firework Night, due to the strong and long-standing tradition of setting off loads of fireworks to commemorate the fact that Guy Fawkes all those years ago did not end up blowing up the House of Lords.
In the past, this victory, the fact that nothing blew up and King James I survived the planned attack, was called Gunpowder Treason Day. In the beginning it was also celebrated by lighting up bonfires, hence my favourite nickname for Guy Fawke’s Night – the Bonfire Night, was coined sometime later.
Even though the actual date was on the 5th, we tend to hear fireworks going off at least one week on either side, every day! I’m hearing it right now while typing this (it’s the evening of the 6th). I can see my cats’ ears twitching nervously with each loud bang.
I liked fireworks as a child
I mean, in a way.
I have positive memories of fireworks from my childhood, yes. There have been lovely moments of spending time with friends and family, setting up some fireworks on New Year’s Eve and watching them go off in the sky. These times are etched into my memory as positive moments spent with my family before things turned sour again the next day. So I guess you can say that fireworks were special like that.
Actually, if I dig a little deeper, think a little harder, I start realising something important. Is it really the fireworks that gave me those pleasant memories? Yes, they are pretty, they were fun, they were sometimes scary and I almost got hit by one on a street, but I mostly had a good time.
Do you think, however, that rather than the actual fireworks, what was positive and dear to me was the pleasant and enjoyable experiences I had with my family and friends? The positive connections I had with people? We spent time together and had fun together. That was the point of happiness when it comes to fireworks – not the fireworks themselves.
If I had been doing any other fun activity together with my family and friends at those times, I think I would have felt the same kind of joy as I felt when we were polluting – excuse me, setting off and admiring fireworks together.
We know better now - fireworks aren't fun anymore
I felt uneasy last night during my commute home. I was walking towards the train station, surrounded by darkness and dim street lights, loud bangs echoing everywhere due to the tall buildings bouncing off the sound around me. I felt nervous and walked faster. I had to run in the end, even though I knew they were just fireworks. I just don’t like the sounds.
I was in Paris during the bombing/shootings a few years ago. I was not far, but still a few blocks away from one of the sites. We had to hide on the floor of a pub for hours, in the dark, following the news of more and more people having been killed. The day has stayed with me. It was a sad and exhausting day. I didn’t hear the sounds myself, I was in a loud pub until everything went quiet, but every time I now hear any loud bangs I somehow remember that day again and it is an uneasy feeling.
So I ran to the train station last night, not away from a real threat, but away from the memory of a day in the past that I’d much rather just forget.
They pollute our beautiful planet
There have been some improvements recently on the composition of fireworks apparently, and there are companies that make them in more ecological and nature-friendly ways. If we cannot completely stop using them, could we at least make sure that we keep developing them to be safer for us and for the environment, and less loud?
To be honest, with all the other concerns we have now about our planet, it seems more logical to just stop using fireworks altogether and concentrate efforts on something else… 🤷♀️
The ‘traditional’ fireworks that people, including myself, are now so concerned about, cause air pollution and leave harmful particles, chemicals and smoke hanging in the air for days. Some of these toxins stay forever!
Exposure to this is linked with health issues such as shortness of breath, asthma attacks and even heart problems. If you already have heart or lung problems, or if you’re an older person or a child, you’re in even greater risk for health issues caused by fireworks.
Some of the gunk from the fireworks also falls to the ground and pollutes our soil and water. Due to how the materials are sourced, they also contribute to the destruction of wildlife habitats.
(See some more info here if you want to read about it).
They terrify and stress out our pets and wild animals
The whole reason why I wanted to write this post in the first place started when I saw all those pictures of scared pets – terrified cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, shaking dogs, some hiding under tables, nightstands, under the bed, cowering under their blankets. They were terrified and could not understand what was happening. 😢 Some people had to stay at home with their pets instead of going to work.
All this terror and stress for our dear pets, just so that people can look up in the sky for a few minutes and see some nice colours and light formations go off in a loud bang! In addition to causing them mental pain, some of our pets have very acute hearing, much better than our own, and loud noises can actually physically hurt their ears. 😿
I hope that some day, hopefully in the near future, fireworks would no longer be used and we could celebrate Guy Fawkes Night and New Year’s Eve together with our pets. ❤️🐈
They bring distress to veterans, survivors of gun violence, and those with PTSD
For people with post-traumatic stress, the sounds and flashes from fireworks can be triggers and make their symptoms worse. For many people, the days when the rest of us are having a celebration, for them these same days are a challenge and a struggle to try and avoid any sudden noises that resemble gunshots. When it’s all around you, it’s not easy to avoid. 😟
There are people who wake up terrified during the night, covered in sweat, due to the loud noises transporting them back to their time in war, or back to a mass shooting. Imagine how frustrating and horrible this must be, to go through this while everyone else is out there celebrating, contributing to your symptoms and not doing anything to stop. And they do it again next time, and the next, even when they see this being mentioned in the media every year nowadays.
Let's leave the fireworks in the past
I know there’s a chance that fireworks are a longstanding tradition in your family that you simply do not want to give up. I get that, and I don’t want to rant at anyone. I never rant at anyone about anything. I just want to make you think. Think about what I said above about togetherness, connectedness, and the spirit of having fun with your friends and family, with your children. With your pets!
I hope you can teach each other to appreciate nature, and other people, enough that you wouldn’t want to contribute to polluting our planet anymore or cause someone distress, when it could be easily avoided. Will you teach each other to appreciate wildlife and do more to protect our cats, dogs and other pets from physical and mental harm?
I hope that we will all remember this next time when an occasion comes around when we normally would use fireworks for entertainment and fun. Let’s all do something else together, let’s still gather together in a park, maybe with some nice music (reasonable volume), good food, have a good time, dance, talk to each other and laugh with our friends. If it’s summer, I recommend a picnic!
I want to see a significant decrease in pictures and videos of shaking dogs and scared cats on Twitter next time. It’s time to leave the fireworks in the past, and celebrate in a more meaningful and healthier way from now on, concentrate on each other instead of looking at patterns in the sky.
I want to see your face and your smile when you’re celebrating and having fun. I want to see you laughing and looking back at me with fireworks of joy in your eyes, reflecting mine. And when I get home, I want my cats Arthur and Drake to be happy, excitedly running towards me, tails up in the air, and no sign of distress. 🐈🐈
What do you think of fireworks nowadays? Do you have pets and are they generally fine with them, or do they get scared like my cats? I’d love to hear your views!