Currently, I have two gigs this month. One is opening for Peter Jacobs at a kitchen party hosted by the good folks at Freezerland NFLD Inc in Brampton and the other is a Tibb's Eve kitchen party at the Stage Diner here in Hamilton. The latter is a scaled-down, all-acoustic show in collaboration with fiddler friend James Franczek. When rehearsing last Sunday for the gig, he asked me what Tibb's Eve was. If you also don't know and would like to learn a bit about Newfoundland culture, please read on.
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Originally referring to a loosely-moraled, female character used for comic relief in 17th century English plays, the fictitious Tibb or Saint Tibb never existed, so because of this, Tibb's Eve began referring to a day that could never possibly arrive. The expression was popular in Cornwall and in the Ulster dialect in Northern Ireland. For us, it's arguably more associated with the Christmas season in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Essentially an outport tradition that was only adopted by Townie bar owners in 2010 as a business opportunity, Tibb's Eve refers to the beginning of the Christmas season. It's said to have originated during World War Two on the southern coast where it was deemed the first appropriate night of Advent to have a drink. Because this was a religious and solemn time when alcohol traditionally wasn't consumed until the 25th, it was a way to get into the Christmas stash two days early. Because it involved drinking, some may also refer to it as "Tip's Eve" or "Tipsy Eve".
In 2019, Newfoundland comedian Colin Hollett matter-of-factly described the holiday this way for a Halifax newspaper, "Tibb's Eve on December 23, when people drink and eat at kitchen parties and bars with all the people they want to celebrate with before spending time with those they have to. I have no idea how that isn't huge everywhere else."
So there you have it. A short and sweet explanation of Tibb's Eve, one of Newfoundland's many charming traditions. From my crew to yours, have a safe and restful holiday season!