“Is ye a Screecher?” asks the master of ceremonies. You reply, “Deed I is, me old cock, and long may your big jib draw!” (You just said: “Indeed, I am, my old friend, and may there always be wind in your sails!”) You then eat a piece of bologna, kiss a frozen cod, and take shot of Screech.
Congratulations, you’re now an honorary Newfoundlander.
This ritual, called a Screech-in, is a satirical tribute to the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. During the triangular trade, the region exchanged salted codfish, its once-primary export, for the West Indies’ rum. Later picking up the name “Screech,” the amber liquor became intertwined with local culture—one writer described the history of Newfoundland as “a long battle between rum and religion.” Today, Screech is 80-proof, locally bottled Jamaican rum, and it plays an important role in initiating visitors into Newfie culture.
Critics say the ritual reinforces negative ideas about Newfoundlanders, but Screech-ins allow locals to lampoon outmoded stereotypes. Most Newfies are no longer cod fishermen, but they enjoy letting visitors in on their sense of humor, their history, and their hooch. The best way to become an honorary Newfie? Laugh at yourself. Learning to love Screech wouldn’t hurt, either.
Now if you just can’t wait to be Screeched-in, you can start practicing the creed everyone recites together:
From the waters of the Avalon, to the shores of Labrador,
We’ve always stuck together, with a rant and a roar.
To those who’ve never been, soon they’ll understand,
From coast to coast, we raise a toast, we love thee Newfoundland!
Need to Know
Around Newfoundland, there are a handful of bars known for their theatrical masters of ceremonies. You can attend or participate in a public Screech-in, or perform your own at home. All you need is bologna, cod, and Screech.
Where to Try It
Christian's Bar23 George St., Newfoundland and Labrador, A1C 1M3, Canada
Brian, a "living caricature of a traditional Newfoundland fisherman," is "basically the best reason to get Screeched-in," according to locals. He performs Screech-ins at this bar every weekend.