By Candice Walsh
Everyone has their own Christmas or holiday traditions, but in Newfoundland, sometimes we do things a little, well, different. Here’s how to celebrate the holidays like a Newfoundlander.
1. Stock up on screech and brew. Head to the liquor store for Golden Wedding whisky, Screech rum, Wiser’s whisky and local favourite beers like India, Blue Star and Black Horse. Here on “the Rock” we receive an influx of visitors on Christmas evening, and much merriment is had until the wee hours of the morning. Guests typically bring their own drinks, but it’s nice to be generous.
2. Crank the tunes. Ensure you have lots of traditional Newfoundland music on hand. Start with Simani and a compilation like A Downhome Newfoundland Christmas (with Dick Nolan, Eddie Coffey and other classic Newfoundland artists), some Kelly Russell fiddlin’ or just a tried-and-true Great Big Sea album.
3. Leave cookies and Purity Syrup for Santa Claus. A little known fact: Santa Claus prefers Purity Syrup to milk with his cookies on Christmas Eve. A rich, unbelievably sweet raspberry or strawberry drink, Purity Syrup is a classic addition to any holiday festivity—but be sure to water it down first. If you must leave cookies, too, make them molasses: the syrup complements the molasses perfectly.
4. Throw a flaming log over your roof. This is a twist on the tradition of burning a Yule log for the 12 days of Christmas. Instead, Newfoundlanders would throw a burning log over the roof with the belief that it would protect their homes from fire in the coming year. Nobody seems to do this anymore, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Still popular these days, and much more delicious, is the Yule log cake.
5. Go mummering. The bizarre but ridiculously fun tradition of mummering has people dressing up in outrageous outfits to mask their identities, then going from house to house to stomp out a jig to some accordion music, while the party hosts are forced to entertain them until the guess who each mummer is. (See the video, with music by Simani.) Yes, letting strangers into your home is often ill-advised these days, however, smaller regions have revived the in recent years and St. John’s even has a Mummer’s Festival and Parade.
Photo by Christopher Deacon, courtesy of the Mummers Festival.