Digital Archives Initiative

ICH - Social Practices, Rituals and Festive Events



Social practices, rituals and festive events are habitual activities that structure the lives of communities and groups and that are shared by and relevant to many of their members. They reaffirm the identity of those who practice them as a group or a society. Performed in public or private, they are closely linked to important events. Social, ritual and festive practices may help to mark the passing of the seasons, events in the calendar or the stages of a person's life. They vary from small gatherings to large-scale social celebrations and commemorations. Social practices, rituals and festive events involve a dazzling variety of forms: birth, wedding and funeral rituals; traditional games and sports; settlement patterns; food traditions like the Newfoundland Jiggs Dinner; seasonal ceremonies like mummering , garden parties and Christmas traditions.


Bonfire Night
The lighting of bonfires on or around November 5th in Newfoundland and Labrador is part of an English tradition carried out in commemoration of the death of the anti-Parliamentary terrorist Guy Fawkes. Most present-day participants in the fires would be hard-pressed to say who Guy Fawkes was, and the name "Guy Fawkes Night" is less common than "Bonfire Night." In recent memory, the custom mainly functions to help clean up communities. Many predominantly Roman Catholic communities in the province celebrate with a bonfire on June 24th. This collection brings together a series of photographs, interviews and videos of bonfire celebrations from across the province.

Children's Games
Games and play allow children to develop important social skills and negotiate their world through competition, role-playing, and power hierarchies. Children's games evolve over time and reflect how communities respond to social and economic changes. The introduction of electricity, telephones, movies, television, radio and internet has had a strong influence on the game repertoire of children. As these technologies grew in popularity, children spent less time outdoors playing traditional games such as Rounders, Hoist your Sails and Run, Duck on the Rock or Bandy Ball. This collection of games from across the province explores the folklore of children's games by presenting contextual information, such as rules of play, gender and age requirements, type of equipment used and when and where each game was played. The collection also includes participants' memories of childhood activities, entertainments and other pastimes.

Christmas Traditions
Christmastime house-visiting traditions in Newfoundland and Labrador have a long and varied history. Mummering, mumming, or janneying, as it is commonly known today, typically involves a group of friends or family who dress in disguise and visit homes within their community or neighbouring communities during the twelve days of Christmas. If the mummers are welcomed into a house, they often do a variety of informal performances that may include dance, music, jokes, or recitations. The hosts must guess the mummers’ identities before offering them food or drink. They may poke and prod the mummers or ask them questions. To make this a challenge for the hosts, the mummers may stuff their costumes, cross-dress, or speak while inhaling (ingressive speech). Once the mummers have been identified they remove their disguise, spend some social time with the hosts, and then travel as a group to the next home.

There are several other house-visiting traditions in the province. "The wren" involves visitors parading a small effigy of a bird on a stick from house to house, reciting a verse for the hosts. Ribbon fools were outstanding for their elaborate costumes of necklaces, broaches, and coloured ribbons. They would travel, unmasked, with colourful sticks which they used to poke passersby. The naliyuk, like the mummer, is a disguised house-visitor from the Inuit tradition. Dressed in masks and carrying sticks, naliyuks are especially terrifying to children, who are questioned by the masked figures and then offered gifts.

Skateboarding
Twenty years ago skateboarding in St. John's was a much different scene than it is today. From the 1990s to the early 2000s street skateboarding was at the peak of popularity. Although there are city by-laws which made it an offence for a person to operate a skateboard in many public spaces, skaters vehemently resisted this. During that time, downtown St. John's was not recognizable without pockets of skateboarders. The clack of wheels along asphalt or the scrape of a board down a metal railing were common background noises in popular skate spots like the War Memorial, Atlantic Place and the Colonial Building. Skateboarders were looked upon as a nuisance in the city and many measures were taken to stop them. For example, fines were issued and the War Memorial was "capped" with stone while the large stair set in front of Atlantic Place was reduced to just a few steps. Many of the measures to deter skateboarding in the city were ineffective and real change did not come until the first skate park was constructed behind the old Memorial Stadium in 1998. Today that street skateboarding scene no longer exists in Newfoundland and as a means of preserving the memory of this subculture the Intangible Cultural Heritage Office has created the ICH skateboarding collection.

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Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory

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