Northern Territorians are an interesting bunch, possessed of a unique blend of high disposable income, burning competitiveness, and sheer batshit lunacy. These three characteristics combine with particularly spectacular results on 1 July every year – Territory Day. This is the one day of the year when it is completely legal to buy, sell, and set off fireworks, pretty much wherever in the Territory one desires. The day when Territorians celebrate the commencement of self-government in 1978 by blowing some shit up, and setting some other shit on fire. We’re not talking standard firecrackers here either, people drop serious cash on all kinds of fireworks for the occasion.

Leading up to the event, I’d heard an acquaintance describe the day as “the scariest experience of my life,” and several others recommend staying home and locking the doors, so I was ready for anything and expecting some serious carnage. We found a great vantage point on the cliffs near East Point, with a clear view across the bay to the official fireworks, and right in the middle of several large groups setting off rockets roughly every two minutes.

There is something truly liberating about rushing giggling around in the dark, diving for cover as explosives misfire in all directions, watching grandparents frantically stamping out spot fires in picnic rugs. At one point some friends arrived and ran towards us through the thick smoke, explosions going off around them. I was just waiting for someone to drop to their knees with their hands in the air, a la Willem Dafoe’s Sergeant Elias in Platoon.

In a country like Australia, where it feels like we are wrapped up in cotton wool so much of the time, a day like this is a reminder of simpler times, when burning fingers or singing off eyebrows were acceptable side effects of a good time. I loved it.

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