December 2002
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Christmas Traditions in Newfoundland
By Darren Dobbin, St. Catherine Academy, Mount Carmel, NL

What exactly is Christmas all about? Besides the birth of Christ, it is a time when all of our families come together and celebrate. During this holiday, many families have their own Christmas traditions which they carry out yearly.

A man named John Dobbin, who is a father of two and grandfather of four, was more than willing to share some of his childhood Christmas traditions with me for this article.

When you think of Christmas traditions, you think of decorating a tree, giving and receiving gifts, a big festive meal and having tons of fun. This man and his family carried out traditions that have been in his family for many generations. I asked him if he would mind letting me in on some of these historic traditions.

"Christmas Eve was always the best part of Christmas for me. Every year after church, my parents and I would get our horse and sleigh together and go for a ride in the woods which surrounded our home. After that we would travel to my grandfathers house for our Christmas visit. This was always the only time I got to see my grandfather every year because of his work up in ‘Canada.' He would always have a piece of ‘real' chocolate from Canada for me. Back then getting chocolate from the big cities was like getting a car nowadays," said Mr. Dobbin.

He went on to explain how the birth of Christ seemed to be more important than it is now. "Seems like religion isn't as big in people's lives like it was back in my day. When Christmas arrived, as tradition, my family would spend an hour a day, sitting together on the bare floor, listening to my mother and father read from the Bible. I have done this every Christmas since I can remember and my wife and I still carry out this tradition every year. As child it got kinda boring but we had to stick it out because it was tradition and my father would never break tradition," said Mr. Dobbin.

He continued to talk about how his family and him would spend most of Christmas visiting relatives and friends that they never really seen during the year. Mr. Dobbin added that for Christmas he and each of his brothers and sisters would only get two gifts that were given to them from ‘Santa.'

"When December arrived, we had to make up our minds on what we would ask for, for Christmas. Usually you would only get two gifts but some years, depending on how father did with the fishing, you might get lucky and get three," Mr. Dobbin said with a slight grin.

As the years went on and some of the old traditions got boring, Mr. Dobbin and some of his fellow classmates decided to take part in a new tradition that was booming across the island. "When I got older I noticed that the Christmas spirit of the community was starting to slip away. One Christmas Day night, a couple of my buddies and I decided to have some fun and go out mummering. We went from house to house singing songs and having a couple of drinks. As the night went on people started to follow from house to house and soon almost everyone in the community ended up at the one house, dressed up, having a great time. Every year for about twenty years I would get a couple of old friends and carry out the same tradition. It always seemed to ‘liven' up the community. And when I got too old to do it some of the younger generation started to do it. It was always a grand old time."

Christmas seemed to be a time of year for them when they could get together and have some good fun. Many families carry out these traditions now and hopefully they will for a long time. This holiday is celebrated by all Newfoundlanders in their own special, unique way. Its nice to see that Christmas was as important now as it was back then. Christmas is all about traditions and without traditions it never would be the same as Mr. Dobbin showed.


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