Tip’s Eve or Tibb’s Eve?

Gary Kean
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Corner Brook long-term care residents celebrate eve of Christmas Eve

CORNER BROOK — Looking to the older generation to settle the debate of whether Dec. 23 is called Tip’s Eve or Tibb’s Eve doesn’t always provide the answer.

That didn’t stop the folks living at the protective community residences on Wheeler’s Road from celebrating Monday.

They were all smiles and tapping their toes as they were entertained by the musical brother duo of Dave and Robert Wheeler. All they cared about was that Christmas will soon be here.

“No, it’s not something we ever heard of when we were younger,” said Jessie Butt, a resident in one of the bungalows, when asked if she celebrated Tip’s Eve when she was younger.

“All I recall before Christmas was we would rig up the Christmas tree and put presents under it.”

Her housemate Dorothy Corbin also never celebrated Tip’s Eve when she was younger. Her pre-Christmas ritual consisted of trying to find out what presents she was going to get.

“Our parents would put away a big box that we weren’t allowed to look in,” said Corbin.

“I tried to get a sneak peek at the gifts in it, but I wouldn’t tell what I saw because I didn’t want to spoil Christmas.”

According to Dr. Phil Hiscock of Memorial University’s Folklore Department, the idea of Tip’s Eve is unique to Newfoundland and Labrador and has its origins on the island portion of the province’s south coast. As he explained it, sometime around the Second World War, people along the south coast began to associate Dec. 23 with the phrase and deemed it the first occasion it was acceptable to have a few Christmas tipples, or alcoholic drinks.

In many of the outport communities, it became a day where people would visit each other's homes for a drink.

Because Christmas Eve was still a part of Advent, and that observance was almost as sober as Lent, Hiscock indicated most traditional Christians would never consider taking a nip before Christmas Day.

Tip's Eve became a lighthearted means to extend the season, or get an early start to it.

"So, it's very much a modernist thing, but just when that modernist thing kicked in I don't know," said Hiscock.

Tip's Eve is sometimes known by several different names, depending on the community. In some places, it's called Tibb's Eve or even Tipsy Eve  — an evolution of the name in characteristic folkloric fashion.

"For someone who thinks of it as a day to get tipsy, then Tipsy Eve is perfect,” said Hiscock. “There's nothing wrong with that. That's a good way of calling it.

"And, of course, it's all based in the kind of humour that people have had for hundreds of years. So, there's no reason why people should not make humorous adjustments to it in the present."

Geographic location: Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • Eric Hillier
    December 24, 2013 - 09:14

    As a 70 plus who grew up on Newfoundland's NE coast I've known about Tibb's Eve. While I didn't get to participate in that which would make it Tip's (Tippsy) Eve, I suspect there were those who did. I am presently here in Florida where we will spend Christmas and have even told some of our American friends about it. It's another opportunity to share some of our customs with others who seem to enjoy getting to know about who we are.