Prince Edward Island blogger Peter Rukavina did his readers the service of posting the schedule for the New Year’s Day levees of Charlottetown and area. What is a levee, you might ask? (The é is almost never used.) Wikipedia has it.
The word levée (from French, noun use of infinitive lever, “rising”, from Latin levāre, “to raise”) originated in the Levée du Soleil (Rising of the Sun) of King Louis XIV (1643–1715). It was his custom to receive his male subjects in his bedchamber just after arising, a practice that subsequently spread throughout Europe.
In the 18th century the levée in Great Britain and Ireland became a formal court reception given by the sovereign or his/her representative in the forenoon or early afternoon. In the New World colonies the levée was held by the governor acting on behalf of the monarch. Only men were received at these events.
It was in Canada that the levée became associated with New Year’s Day. The fur traders had the tradition of paying their respects to the master of the fort (their government representative) on New Year’s Day. This custom was adopted by the governor general and lieutenant governors for their levées.
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Today, levées are the receptions (usually, but not necessarily, on New Year’s Day) held by the governor general, the lieutenant governors of the provinces, the military and others, to mark the start of another year and to provide an opportunity for the public to pay their respects.
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Today the levée has evolved from the earlier, more boisterous party into a more sedate and informal one. It is an occasion to call upon representatives of the monarch, military and municipal governments and to exchange New Year’s greetings and best wishes for the new year, to renew old acquaintances and to meet new friends. It is also an opportunity to reflect upon the events of the past year and to welcome the opportunities of the New Year.
The province of Prince Edward Island maintains a more historical approach to celebrating levée day. On New Year’s Day, all Legions and bars are opened and offer moosemilk (egg nog and rum) from the early morning until the late night. Though there are still the formal receptions held at Government House and Province House, levée day is not only a formal event. It is something that attracts a large number of Islanders, which is quite unusual in comparison to the other provinces where it has gradually become more subdued.
Rukavina also shared a news story from 1974-1975, the controversial first admission of women to the levees of Prince Edward Island. Initially, women were banned. It took considerable public outcry to get this changes.