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SOUTH EAST BIGHT, N.L. — Living in an isolated community on the Burin Peninsula has allowed residents to maintain many of the Newfoundland traditions associated with Christmas, believes Clara Whyte.
“Mummering and house visiting, that’s one thing that’s here,” she told The Southern Gazette on Dec. 18. “That is still the tradition. It is cut out in Newfoundland in all places, but here it is still tradition.”
She said house visits are usually made following the church service on Christmas Eve.
Whyte said many of the traditions residents still observe today have been passed down through families in the community.
“A lot of people left here during resettlement but (five) families were left, and out of these five that’s our tradition.”
She adds younger people in the community are also picking up and carrying on traditional ways.
“Same thing when they has their little concert here at the school, they has their little mummering and keeps the tradition going.”
Whyte’s niece Loretta Ward says everyone knows one another in a small community like South East Bight, unlike in larger communities and towns on the peninsula.
“I think where it is such a small close-knit community people are more apt to get together, and everybody is family more or less. If you’re not (directly) related, you’re related some way because it’s a brother-in-law, mother-in-law or cousin ... so everybody visits and you’re around one another," she explains.
Ward said if she were to leave South East Bight, she would miss everyone coming together as a community to celebrate Christmas.
“That don’t go on anywhere else now, going door-to-door,” adds Kathleen Whyte.
“To come in and dance in somebody’s kitchen with boots on and stuff like that,” Clara Whyte offers.
Ward notes celebrants often visit at all hours of the night. “People are kind of expecting, knowing that someone is going to drop by more or less — you don’t have your doors barred and you’re waiting for someone to come in,” she said. “You’ll stay up to probably 10 or 11 o’clock waiting for somebody to drop by.”
"Everybody knows everybody,” shares Ward. “You don’t have to worry that a stranger is going to knock on your door, come in your house during Christmas. It’s gonna be family or friends that’s dropping by. You know who’s here in the harbour and who’s going to drop by.”