The final week of the North American adventure to celebrate my 30th birthday was spent taking a road trip around Canada’s most eastern province; Newfoundland and Labrador. The province is made up of the mainland Labrador and the island of Newfoundland. It was this island that I 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 my road trip I certainly felt more like I was in Europe. The place certainly does have a very Irish feel to it.
At this point you’re probably assuming that the reason this British girl went to Newfoundland was to explore one of the oldest colonies of the British Empire. Well, I’d be lying if I said this was the reason. Honestly, I had no clue! It was only after a local man explained the history did I realise our ancestors had played such a big role in Newfoundlands history. But learning this made me glad I had come to explore Newfoundland.
Learning About Being Screeched In
It was about the second or third day into the Newfoundland road trip when someone asked if I had been screeched in yet. I just stared blankly at them thinking “have I been what now?”. Being ‘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 TV series. Am I showing my age here?
Since Newfoundland is still fairly new to being a part of Canada, most of the culture has derived from their European 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 in a quirky kind of way, which of course had my attention. I was told that the best place to get Screeched In was St John’s which happened to be the final stop of the trip.
While staying at Abbie’s Garden B&B the host had strongly recommended staying at The Jag hotel while in St John’s and I’m so glad I took their advice. The staff at The Jag were fantastic and full of helpful information about the area. They provided local insights into the best bars and restaurants to check out. Most importantly, they were able to point out the best place in George Street to get Screeched In.
The 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 I do enjoy a beer or two on my travels, it’s not often that I go on a pub crawl anymore. In fact, I haven’t been on one since I was in the artic and had a little pub crawl around Svalbard.
Since this was an area similar to Ireland, I wanted to enjoy what George Street had to offer. I started the pub crawl in The Jag Hotel bar. While I was checking in the receptionist had mentioned the hotel makes lovely cocktails and well I’m a sucker for a good cocktail!
After a deliciously fruity cocktail it was time to head to George Street and see what the local bars had to offer. The first bar I visited was Shamrock City where I 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 was also where I ended up getting dinner.
Getting Screeched In at Christian’s Pub
The fourth stop on the Newfoundland pub crawl was Christian’s Pub, the oldest bar on George Street. As I mentioned before, I 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. I really didn’t research this well!
Luckily for me, the luck of the Irish was on my side. As I headed to the bar I was asked if I was there for the screeching. I said yes and he informed me that I had a 45 minute wait until the ceremony started. This is when I realised I was an idiot for thinking you could just rock up to the bar and get Screeched In on the spot.
I decided to wait as I really did want to get Screeched In and this was the last night of the trip. I signed my name up to be included and payed the $20 fee. While I waited I 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 I 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 these ceremonies are pretty much the same. I’ll explain to you how mine 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 introductions 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 its name.
While we were doing this, our ceremony leader was preparing some Newfoundland Steak for us. And by Newfoundland steak, I mean baloney. But apparently this was once considered the rich 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. This run was so strong that once they gave it to an American fisherman who let out a mighty screech after drinking it. From then on they referred to him as “Screech Boy” and that’s how the 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 me, the cod that Christian’s Pub makes you 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. Some people on the other hand were not a fan. Either way, it was just one shot and then it was over.
Now the hard is over, there is just one more procedure left. We now had to learn some local lingo. For you see, Newfoundlanders have their own language known as ‘Newfinese’ and each participant must learn a simple phrase before becoming an honorary Newfoundlander.
And that was it. Once all the steps had been completed we had all become honorary Newfoundlanders. If you do your Screech In at Christian’s Pub you will even get a certificate to remember the moment.
There you have it, how you can get screeched in and become an honorary Newfoundlander. Would you do it? Maybe you already have? Let me know in the comments!
Plan Your Canada Itinerary
Looking for more things to do in Canada? Check out some of these posts to help plan your Canada trip.
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