"THE NEWFOUNDLAND SCREECH-IN"
Newfoundland has some of the finest music and musicians on Canada's east coast. It is a ruggedly beautiful province with a rich history and a plethora of unique cultural traditions. Some of these include mummering and celebrating Tibb's Eve, but the one that is arguably the most common, and perhaps the most entertaining, is the screech-in.
For those who don't know what this is, it's essentially a short ceremony where people from "away" can come to the island and pay a fee (of course) to recite some stereotypically common local phrases and perform some ridiculous rituals to become an honorary Newfoundlander. I can think of no other place in Canada where one can do such a thing. Such is its beauty.
Although the ritual varies slightly depending on where you do it, there are some hard and fast rules. For it to be official and legitimate, a native Newfoundlander must preside over the ceremony and it must be held within the province. Generally, it goes like this. The leader asks if there is anyone present who'd like to become an honorary Newfoundlander. If so, the correct response is a hearty, "Yis, b'y!" The inductees are given a shot of screech (Newfoundland rum) and the leader emphatically asks, "Is ye a screecher?" The correct response is, "Indeed I is, me old cock! Long may your big jib draw!" which essentially means, "Yes, I am, buddy! May your sails always catch wind!" This is an obvious nod to the province's nautical culture/history. The next step is to kiss a codfish on the lips and then down the shot. Some places vary their process by reordering the steps and/or may require that you also eat a piece of Newfie steak (balogna). Because of the location, mine was much different.
I did it in Bay Bulls aboard a Gatherall's Puffin and Whale Watching tour during an excursion with the family. Wearing a Sou'wester, it did start with the traditional recitation and shot, but we didn't kiss a cod or eat any Newfie steak. Because we were on a boat, it took a different spin. We had to stick a foot in a bucket of seawater and then kiss a plush puffin's arse that was soaked in the same water in which we all put our feet. At the ceremony's conclusion, I was issued a certificate of completion.
Does this make me a Newfoundlander? No. That title is reserved for those who were born there. Regardless, despite it being an obvious tourist attraction designed to put a few extra dollars into the local economy, it is an unforgettable good bit of fun characteristic of this island's charming humour. Upon reflection, I'm not completely convinced that it isn't a passive-aggressive form of revenge that seeks reparations for the unfair and unwarranted Newfie joke trend of decades past ;)
Have you been screeched in? If so, when, where, and what your thoughts on this ritual? Let me know in the comments below.