Resource D: Uniquely Newfoundland and Labrador Events and Festivals

Pancake Night: Pancake Night, or Shrove Tuesday, is a Newfoundland custom celebrated in February or March. It is the start of Lent. Lent is the forty-day period leading up to Easter Sunday. Shrove Tuesday (named for the religious practice of confessing one’s sins and being forgiven or “shriven” or “shrove” by the priest immediately before Lent) was a time to use up as many as possible of the foods banned during Lent. This included meat products and butter and eggs. Pancakes were a simple way to use these foods and entertain the family.

Garden Parties: It is a custom throughout the province for churches to hold Garden Parties to raise funds for the parish or for special projects. Usually on a Sunday, a daylong party is held outdoors, if the weather is fine, or in the church hall, if not. With wheels of fortune and other games of chance in the afternoon, meals are served at suppertime, and sometimes a dance is held at night. In recent years, the organisation of such community-wide parties has frequently been taken over by town councils.

Christmas Season: The modern celebration of Christmas starts fairly early in December. Many businesses and employers organize Christmas parties for their workers. Clubs and organizations do the same thing for their members. Also, people start to decorate their houses with many different coloured lights. As it gets closer to December 25th, people set up Christmas Trees in their homes.

Shed Parties: While not official, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians love to have parties in their backyard or wharf-side “Sheds”. Probably partly the result of inclement weather, the Shed allows a party to go on free from the weather elements. Some Shed Parties may be quite lavish affairs (depending on the size of the Shed) in that they could involve a live band and floor dancing, as well as a veritable banquet of cooked or BBQ’d traditional food – seafood, fish, moose and game meats.

Old Christmas: The season of Christmas is traditionally considered to last twelve days. It ends on “Old Christmas Day,” January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany. For many people in this province Christmas celebrations go on for twelve days. However, this is changing. Nevertheless, there are still customs based on the idea of Old Christmas. For example, many people will not get rid of their Christmas tree until January 7th.

Mummering: Mummering is the practice of disguising yourself and visiting different houses in the community. It is carried on through the Christmas season. It usually does not start until St Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day), though one can find mummers out visiting even on Christmas Day. Mummering was very common at one time in this province. It is not frequently practiced today, except in some rural communities.

Guy Fawkes Day: One unique event commemorated on November 5th is Guy Fawkes Day. Guy Fawkes was a Catholic revolutionary who was convicted and executed in 1605 for being part of a plot to blow up the British Parliament Building. In commemoration, bonfires are lit to burn his effigy.

Some Newfoundland and Labrador Festivals

There are festivals throughout the province. They celebrate everything from history to music to fishing. It is a good opportunity to meet new people and to learn more about this province. The following are but a few of those festivals and events:

  • Corner Brook Winter Festival – February/June
  • Cape St. Mary’s Performance Series – June to September
  • Grand Bank Theatre Festival – June to September
  • Gross Morne Theatre festival – June to September
  • Rising Tide Theatre – New Founde Lande Trinity Pageant – Late June to September
  • Stephenville Theatre Festival: June to September to July
  • John’s: Festival 500: Sharing the Voices – Beginning July
  • Festival500 Sharing the Voices – Early July
  • Exploits Valley Salmon Festival: Grand Falls Windsor: Mid July
  • Mid Summer Viking Festival, L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site: Mid July
  • Exploits Valley Salmon Festival – Mid July
  • Labrador West Regatta – Late July
  • Mid Summer Viking Festival, L’Anse aux Meadows – Mid July
  • Gander Festival of Flight: Mid Summer
  • Shamrock Festival, Ferryland – late July
  • Twillingate Theatre – July to Mid August
  • Twillingate/ New World Island – Fish, Fun and Folk Festival – Late July
  • John’s: Shakespeare by the Sea Festival: July/August
  • John’s Jazz Festival: Early August
  • John’s: George Street Festival: Early August
  • John’s: Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival: Early August
  • A St. John’s Time, Various Festivals – Late July to Mid August
  • Bakeapple Folk Festival – Early August
  • Brigus Blueberry Festival – Early August
  • Downtown Buskers Festival – Early August
  • Gander Festival Of Flight – Early August
  • Heritage Folk Festival, Terra Nova National Park – Mid August
  • Mary’s Harbour Crab festival – Early August
  • Royal St. John’s Regatta – Early August
  • Doors Open St. John’s – Early September
  • Humber Valley Agricultural, Home and Handicraft Exhibition: Mid September –
  • John’s Storytelling Festival – Early November