My Newfoundland Culture
My Newfoundland Culture
Our culture is a very valuable and important part of our lives, it makes us who we are, and we should all take great pride in our cultural identity. I am a Newfoundlander and I love everything about my culture.
My family came from a mixture of vast backgrounds all of which have contributed to my culture. My father was a descendant of Scottish and Irish settlers that came to Newfoundland after the First World War. My mother on the other hand came from the Inuit (previously called Eskimos); her family moved from Labrador during the early 1930’s. When my mother was born she was given up for adoption and raised by her distant relatives, who had lived the city of St. John’s. When her family originally moved to Newfoundland and if they brought any of their old cultures with them, I cannot say. My father on the other hand grew up on the Burin Peninsula in a small fishing village called Lawn. His mother tongue was English, his religion was Roman Catholic. All of the dominant culture that I grew up with I can accredit to my father, for when he finished high school he did as many of the young men did back then. He married my mother who he met while attending University and moved back to Lawn and built a new home for himself, his wife and his future family.
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The cultural landscape has undergone many changes over the past few decades in Newfoundland; however the smaller out ports have stood the test of time and stand unseemly untouched. The majority of the houses in the harbor (Lawn) were built along the hillsides, or close to the water. They were mainly single or two storey homes with gable roofs. These locations and types were chosen and used quite often to protect them from Newfoundland’s harsh weather conditions. All along the water’s edge there were numerous wharves that extended into the sea. At the head of each wharf stood a stage, a place where the fishermen would mend their nets and clean their fish. However it wasn’t only the wharves at the water’s edge; there were also local merchants. They had set up along the coastline to be easily accessible to the fishing boats that came into port. All throughout the harbor (Lawn) were flat “platforms built on poles and spread with boughs for drying codfish” 1 these were called fish flakes. Even when it came to clothes lines for hanging out laundry people relied upon what they had. Therefore clotheslines were made of twine that they would prop up from the ground with a pole. Somewhat of a different structure the Church in the harbor (Lawn) was built in a classical style with its high tower overlooking the community, alongside the church was the community center, where all the local functions and festivities were held.
When it comes to food culture, of course being in a fishing village the majority of our culture involves fish of some sort. Cod fish was the most important. Fish n’ bruise, fish n’ chips, fish cakes, cod tongues, fish stew and Jiggs dinners were all made with cod. There were also a lot of smelt, dried capelin, herring, squid and salmon. After the introduction of the moose to Newfoundland in “1878 and 1904” 2moose meat too has become part of our culture. Moose meat was used in stews, roasts, burgers, sausages and it was even canned or jarred with onions. There were also, the wild bake apple berries, which were considered a delicacy that were often used in jams and tarts.
Music and dance were another big part of my Newfoundland culture. Traditional music, almost entirely folk songs accompanied by old time accordion music were very popular for kitchen parties, community events and weddings. During holidays like St Patrick’s Day, and Christmas, there would be community gatherings which would include lots of good music and dancing. While the couples’ dancing was very popular, the most popular dance was the old fashioned waltz or the Newfie waltz. During Christmas time one could also enjoy the practice of mummering.
By far I would say the best known tradition of Newfoundland is that of being Screeched In. This ceremony involves a non-Newfoundlander drinking a shot of screech, kissing a cod and repeating some old sayings in a Newfie dialect to become an Honorary Newfoundlander.
I love my culture; my hometown has grown over the years; however my culture for the most part has remained unchanged. Family and community are by far my most important values. With the decline of the fishery, cod fish still remains a valuable part of our culture however the structural culture that went with it has started to fade away. There are no more fish flakes and the stages are slowing disappearing from the coastline.
Over the past few years; I have adapted to a subculture while living away from Newfoundland. I no longer live in a small fishing village; I live in a suburban area in a bungalow with no water around for miles. There is no ocean where I live now only fresh running rivers and as for fish being part of the culture here; well it isn’t. Although my culture has changed in retrospect to my environment, buildings and surroundings, all of my values and beliefs I still hold true too and are a part of my daily life. I still use a lot of the old genres and nicknames when I talk to people. I enjoy listening to all the old folk music, which have been around for centuries and I still believe in all the old home remedy cures. My cultural roots run very deep and it will take more than just moving out of Newfoundland to change my culture.