Nfld. & Labrador

For the Love of Music: N.L. musicians share their holiday traditions

Everyone has their own special holiday traditions — read these holiday stories and traditions from Newfoundland and Labrador musicians, gathered as part of CBC N.L.'s For the Love of Music: Holiday House.
Mick Davis, centre left, Sherry Ryan, centre right, and the Kubasonics perform as part of CBC N.L.'s For the Love of Music: Holiday House. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

Music is an important part of the holiday season for many people, in Newfoundland and Labrador and around the world. 

Playing music, singing and dancing and getting together for a good meal are often a part of celebrating the holidays, but everyone has their own special traditions. 

Keep reading to find out some Newfoundland and Labrador musicians' holiday stories and traditions, gathered as part of CBC N.L.'s For the Love of Music: Holiday House.


The Kubasonics spread Ukrainian culture in Newfoundland and Labrador through their music and holiday traditions. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

"My grandparents came to Canada over 100 years ago and the settled on the Prairies in western Canada. There's big communities of Ukrainians there, and cultural stuff has just carried on for generations. In my family, we've been doing the same kind of thing, like music and all kinds of other traditions," says Brian Cherwick, singer, multi-instrumentalist and leader of Ukrainian-Canadian speed-folk band Kubasonics.

"Since we've been here in Newfoundland, 10 years now, we've been carrying that on here and kind of spreading that tradition, sharing it with our friends, musicians who are in our band but aren't Ukrainian — they come to our house every year for Ukrainian Christmas dinner and we do all the interesting and strange things that Ukrainians do for Christmas."

Brian Cherwick plays a Ukrainian drum. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

"The first course that we have, it's kind of like a porridge, it's made out of wheat, honey and poppy seeds, and one of our traditions is [to] take a big spoonful of that and throw it up onto the ceiling, and if it sticks to the ceiling, it means you're going to have a good year, good luck for the whole year," Cherwick says.

"I just finished painting my living room. I had seven years of porridge stuck to the ceiling and so we finally just scraped it off. We're ready for this year to start it all fresh again."

Baraka Abayo

Baraka Abayo says barbecued goat is a staple at his Christmas dinner. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

"Christmas is different in Tanzania.… I don't think I've ever had a Christmas tree in my house before. It's just never been a thing. It doesn't snow down there, so Christmas trees aren't really big, but if you walk into a shop, they're going to have Christmas decorations everywhere," explains singer-songwriter Baraka Abayo.

"The big tradition, I'd say, in many homes in Tanzania is [to] share a meal with your family and friends. So typically a staple in my home is, we'd have a barbecued goat every Christmas. We all get together, everyone's there, and I remember when I was younger, we used to watch The Sound of Music every single Christmas. That's a little tradition for me."


Francis Dawson, left, and Nadia Duman of Cuerpos. Duman says the cumbia style that influences their music is often heard around the holidays in Latin America. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

"We always look to [pay] homage to Latin sounds. It sort of gives a nod to all of those old cumbia riffs we grew up listening to at Christmas parties and stuff like that," says Cuerpos guitarist and singer Nadia Duman.

"Latin America is a really religious society, and there's a lot of those Christmas rituals that follow those patterns and whatnot, but at the same time, we really like to dance. Once dinner is eaten, there's always somebody turning on the radio and many of these cumbia songs and Latin sounds.… It's something that your grandma would dance to, your aunt. It's something that almost [comes] by osmosis. We joke around how when we were kids, the adults were partying and we would fall asleep and just listen to all of these cumbia songs and that gets engrained in your brain."

Mick Davis

A surprise Beatles tape was one of singer-songwriter Mick Davis's most memorable Christmas gifts. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

"My sister one year gave me a cassette tape of the Beatles' Revolver, but she put it in a big box that would have fit a furniture model TV in it," Mick Davis says.

"So this is sitting by the mantle all Christmas and I'm going, 'What's in the big box? Oh my God!' There was a rubber boot in there and all this junk I had to go through until I got to the Beatles tape." 

Flower Hill

Sherry Ryan and her family mark the holiday with a Christmas party with lots of singing. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

"I think when I was around [my] teenage years, we started to have a Christmas night party at our house," Sherry Ryan says, singer and guitarist with Flower Hill.

"It would always be a lot of singing, all ages, that kind of thing."

Christmas songs — the cheesier the better — were a big part of Christmas for Andrea Monro of Flower Hill when she was growing up. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

"There was always music on the go, and singing was a big part of it," says Andrea Monro, who sings and plays banjo.

"My dad was a classical pianist, and my brother was, and they kind of stuck to that, but at Christmas they'd break out the cheesiest, most fun Christmas songs they could think of."

Zay Nova

One of Zay Nova's first experiences with Christmas was while working at a radio station in Jakarta, where Muslims and Christians celebrate the holidays together. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

"I grew up as a Muslim, so I studied Islam for years, but the first time I was able to learn a bit about Christmas was at a radio station I was working at in Jakarta," says Zay Nova.

"In Jakarta, both religions … they get together and enjoy Christmas together, and I learned a lot."

Brad Tuck

Brad Tuck says Christmas music really attracted him to the season. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

"Christmas, in general, was big in my house, and still is for that matter. One of my earliest memories is my dad would make Christmas ornaments in the shed out of plywood, cut them out, paint them, put lights in them and stuff, and I was there maybe at three, four years old pretending to do something," Brad Tuck explains.

"There's videos of me with a little pretend guitar, pretending to sing and play. Once again, I didn't know what I was doing but I knew there was something about Christmas music that really attracted me to it and to the season."

Watch For the Love of Music: Holiday House on CBC Television and CBC Gem, or listen on CBC Radio One and the CBC Listen app on Dec. 29 and 30.

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