Tag Archives: Lent

What happened to Sheelagh’s Day?

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

March 18

The final brush of snow is on the way

The final brush of snow is on the way

In Newfoundland and Labrador there has been a long established tradition to refer to the day following St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) as  Sheelagh’s Day.

As early as 1819,  the Anglican Missionary and historian Lewis Anspach who wrote the first general history of Newfoundland that was published wrote:

“It is hardly in the power of any priest in the world to hinder an Irishman from getting gloriously drunk, if he is so inclined, on the whole of the 17th of March, as well as the next day in honour of Sheelagh….”

The St. John’s newspaper, The Newfoundlander on reporting on the celebrations of the members of Benevolent Irish Society in St. John’s on March 17, 1829 wrote:

The company continued to retire, successively, until six o’clock on Sheelagh’s morning, (March 18) at which hour, we understand, a few of the campaigners might have been seen, as usual, piously and patriotically employed in “drowning the shamrock.”

Sheelagh (also Sheila, Sheilah, Sheelah) in Irish folk legend is somewhat of a mystery she is variously described as the wife, sister, housekeeper or acquaintance of St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.

In Newfoundland few refer to March 18 by her name day; nowadays her name is only invoked with reference to any storm that takes place on or shortly after March 18 – the storm being referred to as Sheelagh’s Brush.

So ingrained in the Newfoundland psyche is the association of with Sheelagh and the last storm of the winter season  that the fishing fleets were reluctant to put out their gear and the sealing fleets were reluctant to take to the ice preferring to wait until after Sheelah’s Brush had passed.

Sheila’s Brush typically brings a heavy snowfall. The snow is attributed to Sheila’s sweeping away of the last of winter. But, once the brush blows through  – it signals that Spring is just around the corner.

Pity her name is not invoked as it was in our past. It is time to reclaim March 18 to give this day, the traditional name, Sheelagh’s Day.

Sláinte!

Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives  take some time to look at MG 612  the BIS  collection  it consists of minutes of  the BIS (1822-1933, 1938-1970, 1973-1979); agendas (1964-1970); Centenary Volume (1806-1906); loan receipts (1905-1906); journal (1910-1920); cash book (1920-1931); ledger (1939-1944).

Museum Exhibit:  take some time to see: Talamh an Éisc – The Fishing Ground , an exhibition  at The Rooms, that introduces the Irish peoples who have been in Newfoundland and Labrador since the late 1600s, the exhibit explores the communities they built and celebrates the contributions they made to life here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

 

Food, Lent and St. Patrick’s Day

Archival Moment

March 17

(St. Patrick’s Day and the Lenten Fast)

Foods fro the Lenten Season Advertisement, Evening Telegram

Foods fro the Lenten Season
Advertisement, Evening Telegram

St. Patrick’s Day, March 17 has long been considered a significant date on the calendar of Irish Newfoundlanders, in fact on St. Patrick’s Day, all Newfoundlanders lay claim to some smidgeon of Irishness. The Irish in Newfoundland have for hundreds of years celebrated their patron saint with parades, dancing, drinking, and feasting.

St. Patrick’s Day, falling as it does during the fasting season of Lent has proven to be inconvenient, it has also proven to be a source of theological confusion.

Those who follow the Christian calendar and fast or abstain during the Lenten Season (Wednesday, February 10, 2016  and ends on Saturday, March 26th 2016 )  can relax,  bishops throughout the world, especially in dioceses with large Irish populations have customarily granted a special dispensation from the law of abstinence and fasting on St. Patrick’s Day. In the United States, in the resent past, at least 60 of the nearly 200 dioceses (most with large Irish populations) provide such dispensations.

So ingrained in Newfoundland food culture was the idea of the “Lenten Diet” that there was a time during the Lenten Season when grocery stores in their advertising in the local newspapers boldly bragged in their advertisements that they carried “Lenten Diet” products.

In the local  St. John’s newspaper, Evening Telegram, on March 18, 1914 , Bishop Sons and Company Limited, Grocery Department stated in their advertising that their “‘Lenten Diet’ products included Salmon, Lobster, Cod Tongues, White Bait, Royans,  and a large selection of other fish products.”

The Lenten Diet, The Evening Telegram

The Lenten Diet,
The Evening Telegram

E.P. Eagan a competitor of Bishops and Sons at his Duckworth Street and Queens Road stores in St. John’s boasted in his advertising in The Telegram, March 16, 1914   that he carried “Foods that are popular during the Lenten Season.”

It was in this cultural milieu that it would have been difficult to consider a good meal of Irish bacon and cabbage, the traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal without an approving nod from the local bishop.

Irish bacon and cabbage, consists of unsliced back bacon boiled with cabbage and potatoes. Sometimes other vegetables such as turnips, onions and carrots are also added. Historically, this dish was common fare in Irish homes as the ingredients were readily available as many families grew their own vegetables and reared their own pigs. (As it was in Newfoundland.) In the mid-to-late 19th century, Irish immigrants to the United States began substituting corned beef for bacon when making the dish, hence creating corned beef and cabbage.

It is not likely that you will find a restaurant menu that will feature a “Lenten Diet’ and even more unlikely that our local newspaper will offer a ‘Lenten Diet’ column,  best stick to the fish.

On St. Patrick’s Day, break the ‘Lenten Fast’   it is all about the parades, dancing, drinking, and feasting!

St. Patrick’s Day Event:  The Irish Newfoundland Association as part of their 39th Annual Irish Week Celebrations is proud to present their program for this year. Read More: http://irishnewfoundlandassociation.ca/irish-week-four-nights-four-events/

Museum Exhibit: At the Rooms take some time to see: Talamh an Éisc – The Fishing Ground, an exhibit at The Rooms, which introduces the Irish peoples who have been in Newfoundland and Labrador since the late 1600s, the exhibit explores the communities they built and celebrates the contributions they made to life here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Influenza Epidemic Raging

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

March 2, 1919

Influenza Notices were  posted on all  Public Buildings.

In March 1919 Newfoundland  and Labrador was being ravaged with the dreaded Influenza Epidemic.

The local government and the churches were in the fore front of the fight against the spread of the dreaded disease. In St. John’s, on March 2, 1919,  the Catholic Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche, issued a Pastoral Letter removing any obligation of fast and abstinence during the 40 days of Lent. The rationale was that if Roman Catholics were observing the ritual Lenten fast and rules of abstinence that they might be weakening their immune systems making them more susceptible to the pandemic.

On March 12, 1919 a notice was read in all churches that:

“Owing to the prevalence of influenza among the people, His Grace the Archbishop by the authority of the Holy See, grants during this present Lent, a general dispensation from the fast, except on Good Friday”

A variation on the same notice was read in the churches of all denominations.

The move, thought small was unprecedented. One of the many steps that were taken to try and stop the spread of the disease.

St. John’s as an international port of call for ships from around the world was exposed to all the good and ill that came with its geographical location. In 1918 with the influenza epidemic raging throughout the world, it was only a matter of time before the province became vulnerable to the disease.

The pandemic reached Newfoundland on 30 September 1918 when a steamer carrying three infected crewmen docked at St. John’s harbour. Three more infected sailors arrived at Burin on October 4 and they travelled by rail to St. John’s for treatment. A doctor diagnosed the city’s first two local cases of influenza the following day and sent both people to a hospital. Within two weeks, newspapers reported that several hundred people were infected in St. John’s.

Soon after the outbreak, government officials closed many public buildings in St. John’s, including schools, churches, and meeting halls, and introduced quarantine regulations for incoming ships. Many outport communities also closed public buildings to curb the spread of influenza. By the time the epidemic was over, 62 deaths were reported in St. John’s and 170 more in outport Newfoundland.

The effects were most devastating in Labrador, where the disease killed close to one third of the Inuit population and forced some communities out of existence. Death rates were particularly high in the Inuit villages of Okak and Hebron.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Room Provincial Archives explore Death Records 1918-1919.  Reels 32 and 33 and GN 2/5. Special File 352-A, Colonial Secretary’s Department. “Correspondence Re: Outbreak of Epidemic Spanish Influenza in Newfoundland.” November 1918- June 1919.

Recommended Publication: Boats, Trains, and Immunity: The Spread of the Spanish Flu on the Island of Newfoundland.  Craig T. Palmer, Lisa Sattenspiel, Chris Cassidy: Newfoundland and Labrador Studies: Vol. 22 – Number 2 (2007) http://journals.hil.unb.ca/index.php/NFLDS/article/view/10120/10396

 

 

Ashes, fasting and movies.

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

Ash Wednesday (February 10) is the beginning of Lent.

What are these ashes all about?

ash-wednesdayA colleague looked at another colleague today and wondered why she had dirt (ashes) on her forehead. Today  (February 10) in the tradition of most Christian churches (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and others) it is Ash Wednesday, originally called dies cinerum or day of ashes.

Ash Wednesday is the name given to the first day of the season of Lent, in the typical Ash Wednesday observance, Christians are invited to the altar to receive the ashes. The Pastor applies ashes in the shape of the cross on the forehead of each, while speaking the words, “For dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

For over twelve hundred years on the dies cinerum (day of ashes) faithful followers have approached the altar and received ashes upon their foreheads. These ashes are made from the burnt palm branches that were blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year.

Abstaimning , fasting and generally changing one’s lifestle during Lent was  taken very seriously.  People would often give up there favourite food, would refuse to play cards and or attend dances and other social functions.

Imagine, no movie fro 40 days!!

No movies during Lent

No movies during Lent

During Lent of 1909, Michael Francis Howley, the Catholic Archbishop of Newfoundland was very concerned about a relatively new form of entertainment that had become quite popular. His concern about this “new entertainment” stirred him to release a Pastoral  Letter to be read in all churches. The Pastoral Letter outlined the rules and regulations of Lent for that year.  The letter was very direct and forbade Catholics:

“to attend any worldly amusements; such as balls, dances, even in private houses, parties, theatrical or other entertainments, such as these new forms of moving pictures, or shows of any kind held in Public Halls by whatsoever name they may be called.”

The first moving picture in the province a showcase of moving images of famous persons was shown on February 19, 1901 at the British Hall (later known as the Paramount Theatre).

The idea of abstinence and fasting  is not exclusive to the Christian world.

Buddhism, the Buddha Himself encouraged monks and nuns to limit their food intake after the noon meal, and therefore it is common practice among Buddhist monks and nuns to refrain from eating after noon until the next morning on a daily basis.

Jews fast for six days which are spread out at various times in the Jewish calendar year; this means abstinence from food and liquids for both men and women – unless certain exemptions are necessary such as illness or pregnancy. The most important and holiest day of the Jewish year is Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), and on this day Jews will fast and pray for a period of 25 hours.

Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset for 30 days during the month of Ramadan, (which is the month the Prophet Muhammad revealed the Quran), followers are to abstain from food, liquid and smoking. Fasting is considered the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam (These pillars are: i. Creed; ii. Daily prayer; iii. Almsgiving; iv. Fasting; v. Pilgrimage), and it is obligatory for both men and women.

 

Shrove Tuesday—Pancake Day

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

February 9, 2016

Pancake ChefMardi Gras literally means “Fat Tuesday. The day is also known as Shrove Tuesday (from “to shrive,” or hear confessions) or Pancake Tuesday. The custom of making pancakes comes from the need to use up fat, eggs and dairy before the fasting and abstinence of Lent begins. This year Ash Wednesday is on February 10.

GIVE HIM “SHORT SHRIFT”

On Shrove Tuesday,  (February 9) Christians were encouraged to confess their sins so that they were forgiven before the season of Lent began.

The term survives today in ordinary usage in the expression “short shrift”. To give someone short shrift is to pay very little attention to his excuses or problems. The longer expression is, “to give him short shrift and a long rope,” which formerly meant to hang a criminal with a minimum of delay.

What is in that pancake

Lent is a time of abstinence, of giving things up. So Shrove Tuesday is the last chance to indulge yourself, and to use up the foods that aren’t allowed in Lent. Pancakes are eaten on this day because they contain fat, butter and eggs which were forbidden during Lent.

Pancakes were a simple way to use these foods, and one that could entertain the family. Objects with symbolic value are cooked in the pancakes, and those who eat them, especially children, take part discovering what their future will be as part of the meal.

The person who receives each item interprets the gift according to the tradition:

  • a penny—to symbolize poverty
  • a nickel—to symbolize wealth
  • a string—to symbolize a fisherman (if a boy got the string, he would be a fisherman, if a girl did, she would marry one)
  • a holy medal—the house blessed with a priest or a nun.
  • a hair clip—hairdresser or barber
  • a button — to symbolize that you would never marry – a bachelor or an old maid
  • a pencil stub – a career in teaching: imagine a lead pencil in your food!)
  • a thimble—to symbolize that you would be a seamstress (a girl) or a tailor (a boy)
  • a wedding ring—to symbolize that you would marry soon

Where is that nickel?