For the final week of our North America adventure to celebrate my 30th birthday we took a road trip around Canada’s most easterly province; Newfoundland and Labrador. The province is made up of the mainland Labrador and the island of Newfoundland. It was this island that we would be exploring.
History of Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland was once a British colony and later became a British dominion. It was only in 1949 that they became the tenth province of Canada as “Newfoundland”. A name that was then changed in 2001 to become “Newfoundland and Labrador”.
Since Newfoundland and Labrador has only been a part of Canada for less than a century, most of the cultural influence is a product of the English, Irish, French and Indigenous heritage. During our week road trip we certainly felt more like we were in Europe. The place certainly does have a very Irish feel to it.
At this point you’re probably assuming that the reason we came to Newfoundland was explore one of the oldest colonies of the British Empire. Well we’d be lying if we said this was the reason. Honestly we had no clue! It was only after a local man explained the history did we realise our ancestors had played such a big role in Newfoundlands history. But learning this made us glad we had come to explore Newfoundland.
Learning About Being Screeched In
It was about our second or third day into our Newfoundland road trip when someone asked if we had been screeched in yet. I just stared blankly at them thinking “have we been what now?”. Screeched in was not something I had ever heard of before and the only thing that came to my mind was Screech, a character from the old Saved By the Bell series. Am I showing my age here?
Since Newfoundland is still fairly new to being apart of Canada, most of the culture has derived from their Europe influence. Because of this, the locals tend to refer to themselves as being Newfoundlanders or “Newfies” rather than Canadian. In fact they will often refer to the rest of Canada as being “mainlanders”. The ‘Screech In’ is a non obligatory ceremony which is performed on non-Newfoundlanders so that they can become honorary Newfies.
The whole thing sounded a little strange and quirky which of course had my attention straight away. We were told that the best place to get screeched in was St John’s which happened to be our final stop of the trip.
While staying at Abbie’s Garden B&B our host had strongly recommended staying at The Jag while in St John’s and I’m so glad we took their advice. The staff at The Jag were fantastic and full of helpful information about the area. They gave us local insights into the best bars and restaurants to check out. Most importantly, they were able to direct us to the best place in George Street to get screeched in.
Our Pub Crawl Around George Street
George Street is a lot like Temple Bar in Dublin with plenty of bars around, many of which have live folk bands playing. While we do enjoy a beer or two on our travels it’s not often we go on pub crawls anymore. In fact we haven’t been on one since we were in the arctic and we had a little pub crawl around Svalbard.
Since we were in an area so similar to Ireland I wanted to enjoy what George Street had to offer. We started our pub crawl in The Jag bar. When we were checking in the receptionist had mentioned the hotel makes lovely cocktails and I’m a sucker for a good cocktail!
After a delicious cocktail it was time to head to George Street and see what the local bars had to offer. The first bar we visited was Shamrock City where we got to enjoy some local Newfoundland beers and live music. The second stop was Kelly’s Pub across the road. Once again there was local beer and live music to enjoy. This is also where we ended up getting dinner.
Getting Screeched In at Christian’s Bar
The fourth stop on our Newfoundland pub crawl was Christian’s Bar, the oldest bar on George Street. As I mentioned before, we didn’t realise being screeched in was a big ceremony so had no idea there was a need to get to the bar for a certain time. We really didn’t research this well!
Luckily for us the luck of the Irish was on our side. As we headed to the bar we were asked if we were here for the screeching. We said yes and he informed us that we had a 45 minute wait until the ceremony started. This is when we realised we were idiots for thinking you could just rock up to the bar and get screeched in on the spot.
We decided to wait as we really did want to get screeched in and this was our last night of the trip. We signed our names up to be included and payed the $20 fee. While we waited we enjoyed a couple more local beers and watched a crowd of people slowly start to arrive for the screeching.
The Screeching In Ceremony
Every venue will perform the screeching in ceremony in a slightly different way. Some will be asked to stand in a bucket of salt water during the ceremony. I’m glad we didn’t have to do this! Some will be asked to wear the Sou’wester while taking the shot. Actually I would have enjoyed that one!
For the most part the ceremonies are pretty much the same. I’ll explain to you how ours happened but just keep in mind that if you do yours somewhere else, it may be a little different
The Screech In ceremony starts with the ceremony leader asking for an introduction from everyone to find out their names and where they are from. Not surprisingly, most people were from mainland Canada.
After the introductions the ceremony leader gave a brief history of Newfoundland and explained why it has a different culture to the rest of Canada. Then we got an introduction to Screech rum and how it got it’s name.
While we were doing this out ceremony leader was preparing some Newfoundland Steak for us. And by Newfoundland steak, I mean baloney. But apparently this was once considered the fish mans lunch, as it had to be imported.
For the vegetarians thinking of being Screeched in, as our leader said: “I do need everyone to take a small piece, don’t worry if you’re vegetarian because there’s not real meat in there”
*note: this may be a lie as I’m pretty sure the ‘steak’ contains meat
Newfoundland used to trade their fish with Jamaica to get some of their rum. They used to kiss the fish goodbye knowing that it would return as rum. The rum was so strong that once they gave it to an American fisherman who let out a mighty screech after drinking it. They then referred to him as “Screech Boy” and that’s how Screech rum got it’s name.
So to honour this tradition of kissing the fish goodbye, visitors hoping to become honorary Newfoundlanders must kiss a cod. Lucky for us, the cod that Christian’s Bar makes us kiss is a frozen cod. I know I would rather kiss a frozen cod over a fresh cod!
Once everyone has given the cod a kiss it’s time for the next stage of the ceremony. It’s time to take the shot of Screech rum. Now after hearing the story of the American fisherman I was slightly worried this would be a strong rum but actually it was ok. I quite often drink dark rum so I quite enjoyed it. Danik on the other hand was not a fan. Either way it was just one shot and then it was over.
Now the hard part is over there is just one more procedure left. Now it’s time for us to learn some local lingo. For you see, Newfoundlanders have their own language known as ‘Newfinese’ and each participate must learn a simple phrase before becoming honorary Newfoundlanders.
Once you have learnt some logo lingo you will become official honorary Newfoundlanders. If you do your Screech In at Christian’s Bar you will even get a certificate to remember the moment.
There you have it, how you can get screeched in and become honorary Newfoundlanders. Would you do it? Maybe you already have? Let us know in the comments!
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