The height of celebration and enjoyment was reached at Christmas when the previous summer's fishery turned out to be a good one. Those who could afford it in the city and outports laid in provisions enough for the whole winter.
|Winter Wood. Photo: Scott Martin, New-Wes-Valley 2007.|
Certain houses were open to all the neighbors for general hospitality and every visitor was welcomed. A large kitchen with plenty of sitting room, ample floor space for dancing and other games, a well stocked larder and a jovial, hospitable host and hostess were the main essentials of such meeting places during the twelve holidays. With the exception of keeping up the supply of wood to the wood box for the fire and cooking all work was suspended. Fiddlers and "Come-all-ye" singers were at a premium and received every possible honor and attention. Experiences and dramatic stories and incidents of cod and seal fisheries were told by tongues made eloquent by good "Jamaica", introduced by the vernacular prelude "I mind one time". Those who had quarreled any time during the year made up their differences seasoned the good feeling and shook hands. The host made it a special point to see to this. A hospitable, happy, simple people! Happy and contented in spite of the fact that in those Arcadian days there were no radios, no motor cars and no movies. A neighbor was a neighbor, not only in word but in deed. The poor, the sick and the needy were visited and helped, and the place of the modem "dole" was taken by genuine charitable help through the medium of those who were well off. The poor widows had their "haul of wood" and in cases that I know the Incumbent of the parish fattened a cow specially to kill at Christmas, and then killed it and sent a dinner roast to every poor family for Christmas.
|Quidi Vidi. Photo: Scott Martin, Winter 2007.|
I do not think that the law prohibiting "mummers" ever reached north of Conception Bay, where the murder of a man led to this restriction. The custom was kept up till the 7th of January, and at night it made outport life very lively and provocative of much innocent fun. They were welcome visitors at every home and their antics were enjoyed with delight, especially by the young people. By a widely recognized custom the house was their own once they entered, and by the same right the floor was their own for the dances. The old dances that have now all but died out were the favorites, viz: the "Sir Roger", the four- and eight-handed reel, the set or square dance, the Cotillion and the Cushion dance.The Christmas holiday games too are now obsolete, which is regrettable, because they abounded in harmless amusement. They were "Forfeits", "Hide the Button", "Hunt the Slipper", Rhyming Puzzles, "Rise the Grey Mare", "Jack's Alive", "House That Jack Built", "Priest of the Parish lost his Boots, some say this and some say that and some say my man John stole 'em", "All Around the Rule of Contrariness", etc. All these were brought from England and Ireland by our forefathers and greatly added to their pleasure and happiness' 'when toil relaxed for the time being lent its tune to play".
Thanks to www.holiday-gifts-gift-baskets.com for providing this article.