I went to Canada and kissed a cod. No, that’s not a weird analogy, I actually put my lips on a scaly fish and gave it a smooch.
I was in St. John’s for a work conference and the locals explained that this is how visitors become honorary Newfoundlanders. So of course I didn’t ask questions and took part in the ceremony. Duh.
As the story goes, the seafaring Newfoundlanders shipped cod to the West Indies in exchange for Caribbean rum. First off, the name allegedly comes from an incident in which an American military officer took a swig of the rum and let out a loud yelp. When a sergeant asked, “What the cripes was that ungodly screech?” a Newfoundlander replied, “The screech? Tis the rum, me son.” Apparently the cod-kissing ceremony came about for good luck to get the rum and fish safely to their respective destinations… but let’s be honest, I only listened to part of the story because I was staring at that frozen, smelly cod I had to kiss.
The ceremony starts with a native Newfie teaching us visitors the traditional chant, which we had to repeat (yell). Correctly. And that’s a feat in itself, considering it goes, “Indeed I is, me old cock! And long may yer big jib draw!”
Yeahhhhh, that sounds super dirty, doesn’t it? Allegedly it’s not. Apparently it means something like, “Yes I am, old friend! And may your sails always catch wind!” You have to say it correctly, and with enthusiasm, or you’ll be made to repeat it until it’s convincing.
But then it came time for the kiss. I put my lips on the deep-frozen, smelly cod and thought that was it. But my lovely photographer (ahem, hubby) couldn’t get the photo to snap and I had to stand there for seconds, waiting in disgust with my lips on the frigid reptile’s lips. Hence, the grimace.
I began to feel a little bit like my lips might freeze to the darn cod like when you put your tongue on metal in the extreme cold. Not that I’ve done that, but I’ve heard friends say it’s a bad scenario (yeah, OK, I lost a chunk of my tongue around age nine. So what??!).
Luckily after the fish kiss it’s time for a shot of the rum. I say “luckily” because the alcohol washed the gross fish taste off my lips… and of course, the alcohol makes you forget the ridiculous thing you’ve just done. Double win.
This, my friends, is why I travel. Experiencing all the different and quirky traditions around the world I never knew existed. They may be silly, they may have been embellished over the years, but I’m going to keep doing these rituals because they’re fun as hell!