Tag Archives: Treating

“Let me treat you to a drink”


February 16, 1909

Lips that touch liquor will never touch mine.

Lips that touch liquor will never touch mine.

On  February 16, 1909 the local St. John’s newspaper the Evening Telegram reported on a sermon given by Archbishop Michael Francis Howley, the Catholic Archbishop of St. John’s.  The newspaper account reported that “Archbishop Howley occupied the pulpit in the Cathedral” and spoke about establishing a League to be called the “Anti Treating League.”

The name chosen for the organization refers to the established practice and “habit of inviting each other to drink which is called “treating.”  We know it today in the expression “let me treat you to a drink.”

It was Archbishop Howley’s hope that this new organization

 “will have the practical effect in preventing excesses in the use of intoxicating drinks and encouraging sobriety and moderation, and the practice of the virtue of Temperance.

Archbishop Howley proposed that members of the Anti Treating League would pledge themselves “not to take from anyone a drink of intoxicating liquor in a place where such liquors are sold.

In short you could drink but no treating!!

The attempt by the Archbishop to curb drinking was not the only attempt to address the issue of excessive drink.  At The Rooms Provincial Archives records establish that as early as 1675 the  government  was keeping an account of the names of suppliers of liquor and wines to the inhabitants of Newfoundland.

The  Anti Treating League was established but many were deaf to the message of the Archbishop.  The year following the establishment of the League the number of Roman Catholics confined to the Police Station for being drunk was 430.  The number confined for being drunk and disorderly was 299.  He was not amused!

Recommended Archival Collection: Archives of the R.C. Archdiocese:  Howley’s Circular Letter – December 27, 1908: The Anti Treating League.

Recommended Reading: Rumrunners: The Smugglers from St. Pierre and Miquelon and the Burin Peninsula from Prohibition to Present Day.  J. P. Andrieux; Flanker Press, St. John’s, 2009.





Tippling on Tibb’s Eve


December 23 –  Tibb’s Eve

An ale at the local tipple.

In many communities in Newfoundland– the name assigned to December 23 – has traditionally been Tibb’s Eve also known as Tipp’s Eve and more recently Tipsy Eve. It is the first official day of the Christmas Season.

There is uncertainty about the origins of the expression. Folklorists in Newfoundland generally agree that Tibb’s Eve was originally the old-fashioned way to say ‘never’, as in ‘a day that doesn’t exist’. In Newfoundland the expression was “it will be Tibb’s Eve before you get that done.” or “we’ll be at this from now to Tibb’s Eve”.

It might be argued that the expression is Irish.  In 1796  Francis Grose, in his book  ‘Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,’ third ed. writes that  Saint Tibb’s  evening

” is an Irish expression, and means ” the evening of the last day, ” as in  ” He will pay you on St. Tibb’s Eve.”

There’s an interview in the Folklore and Language Archives at Memorial University of Newfoundland with a man from a community in Placentia Bay, born in the early 1900s, who asks the student who’s interviewing him when she plans to get married.

“She answers, ‘Oh, probably never’ he winks his eye and says, ‘Oh, on Tibb’s Eve,’ and on the tape she has no idea what he’s talking about. For him, a joking way, but a normal way of something that’s not going to happen.


The more contemporary explanation of St. Tibb’s comes from the association of the day with a Christmas tipple.  In the 1500’s if you were to go out for a drink you went to a “tipple” or alehouse and were served by a “tippler” the alehouse keeper.  In Newfoundland – St. Tibb’s became – the first real occasion to taste the home brew, a day where the men would visit each other’s homes for a taste.

In 1868 the Catholic bishop of Newfoundland was so appalled that the extent of “habit of tippling” or buying drinks for friends – that he became a determined opponent.  In the early 1900’s one of his successors established the Anti Treating League encouraging men to pledge themselves “not to take from anyone a drink of intoxicating liquor in a place where such liquors are sold.

The League was not a great success.

Merry Christmas

If you are tippling on Tibb’s Eve – No Driving !!