How We Got Screeched In to Become Honorary Newfoundlanders

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How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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.

A road trip around Newfoundland, Canada

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 the British influence while in La Scie, Newfoundland
Learning about the British influence while in La Scie, 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?

Enjoying the views of Newfoundland, Canada
Enjoying the views of Newfoundland

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.

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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.

The gorgeous Abbie’s Garden B&B

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.

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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!

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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.

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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!

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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.

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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.

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders
Our ceremony leader wearing the Sou’wester

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.

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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.

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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!

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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.

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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.

How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders

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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How we got Screeched In to become honorary Newfoundlanders - Newfoundland, Canada

22 Responses

  1. Ha ha ha! I’ve heard of this. I live in “mainland” Canada and I haven’t made it to Newfoundland yet, even though it’s on my list! Glad you enjoyed our easternmost province. 🙂

  2. LOL on fish kissing guys. You did it Proper. I too thought of Saved by the Bell and that silly, zany character. Great minds think alive, drawing references to TV from 20 years ago…or longer. Tweeted.

    Ryan

  3. This is the craziest thing! I have never heard of this but seems like a such a big ordeal for them! I’m sorry, kissing a fish- I’m out! Haha I hate fish!

  4. haha wow, that is such an interesting ritual. Seems like you had a really good experience in Newfoundland

  5. Omg, this is hysterical. I love the quirky tradition and no idea screeching was a thing. I also had no idea that they were part of Britain for so long! Learn something new every day. Looks like fun.

  6. I knew we should have continued on to Newfoundland. We stopped short after visiting New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island! We would have loved to have been screeched in too! Kissing a frozen cod, tasting some rum, eating some steak, and speaking some Newfinese would be worth it to be Newfies!

  7. What a fun tradition! I had never heard of getting “screeched” and also immediately thought of the Saved By the Bell character when I first read your blog title, lol. I’ve never been to Newfoundland and Labrador, but it’s been very high on the wish list. I would absolutely participate in this tradition, what an excellent way to learn some history while bonding over a shot of rum. I’ve participated in a similar tradition when on an equator crossing on a cruise ship. Thanks for sharing your experience, hopefully getting screeched will be in the very near future for me.

  8. passportofawanderwoman

    Oh, this does look a lot like Ireland. Hehe. Those fish kiss pictures are too cute. I have few things in Canada on my wishlist-the typical ones Banff, Vancouver. Now I have newly founded Newfoundland added to this list.

  9. It was fascinating to hear that you felt that Newfoundland felt very European. But then you did find a lot of pubs that sounded very Irish! I have certainly heard of screech but did not know that was the way to become an honorary Newfie! And I also did not know there was a whole ceremony to it. I had a laugh at hearing about Newfoundland steak! Screech is certainly the sound I would make if I tried this! Kissing the fish is also part of the ceremony we did when we crossed the equator. Glad you enjoyed this local tradition.

  10. Ha Ha. By far the funniest things I have read in a long long time. Had no clue about this custom. Its just awesome reading through this. Keep us posted for more!

  11. Congratulations on getting screeched in! Any tradition that involves alcohol and kissing dead animals is a winner in my book! I love that they gave you a certificate to commemorate the occasion. Newfoundland steak sounds like a bunch of baloney! Thanks for sharing!

  12. LOL I’m with you on the frozen cod…but no cod at all might be better. What a unique experience! Thank you for sharing your screeching with us!

  13. What a funny tradition and experience. A beautiful way to cap off your trip as you celebrate your entry into your next decade. So, did you screech after you had the rum? Enjoy being a Newfie and treasure that moment!!

  14. First time hearing about Screeching and wahaha seems really cool! I dont mind kissing a fish, fresh or frozen! I love fish!

  15. Newfoundland is such a quirky place. I’d heard about this strange tradition but somehow it never happened to me! Interesting to hear that Newfoundland used to trade their fish with Jamaica for rum. Seems like a fair trade!

  16. What a cool tradition and one that has been in the area for years and years. I wouldn’t mind kissing a cod too as long as it is frozen. 😛 Good on you both for being such a good sport! 😉

  17. I’d never heard of this but would totally do it! I wasn’t so sure when I saw the pictures of you guys kissing the fish, but then I saw the part about the rum and I love rum! It’s sweet that you get a certificate too. Looks like a great time!

  18. Newfoundland seems to have a unique history and heritage far removed from the rest of Canada. Reading about the ‘Screeching” ceremony was really fascinating. Thanks for the tip about there being meat in the steak, a timely warning for vegetarians heading to Newfoundland to be screeched.

  19. Screeching! Wow, I must put it on my new vocab now! We plan to drive a caravan to Canada next year, will keep your blog in mind! This must be a fun and memorable experience esp having a certificate for kissing a frozen fish! Ha Ha Ha!! 🙂

  20. Congratulations on becoming Newflies. Loved reading abt the ceremonial fun involved in becoming one. This does seem like a good outing with friends and I bet it made your Bday special too.

  21. haha. same as always you brought a smile to my face. Not only I should say happy birthday (which I think I did before) , but I should congrats you for becoming Newflies 🙂

  22. Ha ha really those customs and ceremonies… they make it all so interesting. Both of you went through the process of becoming Newflies so well! A happy birthday to you! I am sure this would be one among the many memorable ones of yours.

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