The Best Little Edmontonian Newfoundland Tradition… Ever
The Best Little Newfoundland Christmas Pageant Ever returns for its 14th year
By Jesse Cole | December 13, 2023
Alberta is home to more Newfoundlanders than any other part of Canada, except for, well, Newfoundland. But living more than 6,000 kilometres away doesn’t make it easy for Newfie expats to “come from away” for the holidays — especially with airfare going for upwards of $1,500.
No one knows that better than Cheryl Jameson and her husband, Justin.
The couple, who met and married in Newfoundland, moved to Jameson’s home province of Alberta (“to fulfil the stereotype,” says Jameson) in 2010.
“We realized how expensive it is to fly back to Newfoundland for Christmas,” Jameson says. “So we said ‘Let’s bring a little bit of The Rock to the Newfoundlanders who can’t go home.'”
And that’s what they’ve been doing for the past 14 years through their theatre company, Whizgiggling Productions (Newfiese for acting foolish or silly).
Each Christmas, the company puts on a rendition of The Best Little Newfoundland Christmas Pageant Ever, a stage adaptation of Barbara Robinson’s classic children’s book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
The play centres on the story of Mrs. O’Brien, a community volunteer who has been tasked with putting on a Christmas pageant in St. John’s after the original organizer hits a moose with her car. The task seems simple enough, until “the worst kids in the world” — the Herdmans — show up.
“The kids from ‘the wrong side of the tracks’ show up and decide to be a part of it because they can get the free WiFi if they go to the church,” Jameson says of the modernized retelling of the original play.
What ensues is all manner of hilarious mischief and mayhem as the Herdmans struggle to understand the true meaning of Christmas.
“They have no idea what the biblical Christmas story is about and they’re just aghast when they find out. They’re like, ‘What do you mean they tied a baby up and put him in a feedbox?!’ when being told about swaddling the Baby Jesus and putting him in the manger,” Jameson says.
With 14 years on the books, Jameson believes the performance’s lasting power — especially in a province that is not Newfoundland — has come from the sense of tradition.
“We all have Christmas movies we love and people, especially around Christmas, they love tradition,” Jameson says. “I think we filled that gap for some people…we bring home for some of the Newfoundlanders and we’re also a bit more affordable than the bigger theatre houses in town.”
While Alberta may be home to a large (and growing) diaspora of Newfoundlanders, it’s still largely a mainlander community, which means a great deal of the performance’s cast and audience is majority mainlander too. She says that’s evident of the play’s accessibility to audiences across cultural boundaries, but also pointed out that the play is intended to honour Newfoundland’s cultural tapestry, not to belittle it.
“We’re not trying to do a caricature of Newfoundland, we’re trying to honour it and bring some of the culture,” she says. “We’re not going to do it perfectly, but we’re trying to hug the culture, not laugh at it.”
This year’s performance takes place from December 15 to 17 at The Backstage Theatre. If you want to start your own Best Little Newfoundland tradition, you can find tickets here.