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New Year's Levee

geo

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The annual New Year's Day Levée, hosted by the Governor General, the Lieutenant-Governor, military establishments, municipalities and other institutions, has an unusual and interesting origin.

The word Levée is derived from the French verb lever — to rise (specifically from one's bed) — and has its origins in the Levée du Soleil or Rising of the Sun instituted by King Louis XIV (1643–1715) whose custom it was to receive his male subjects in the Royal bedchamber just after arising, a practice which subsequently spread throughout Europe.

The Levée crossed the English Channel in the 18th Century, and in Great Britain and Ireland became a formal Court assembly (reception) given by the Sovereign or his/her representative in the forenoon or early afternoon, at which only men were received.

In the New World colonies, the Levée was held by the Governor acting on behalf of the Monarch. Because settlers were widely scattered, and separated from the seat of Government, the annual Levée was a very important event, and attendance by village leaders and public dignitaries was compulsory.

It was in Canada that the Levée became associated with New Year's Day. The holding of a Levée by the Governor General and Lieutenant-Governors on New Year's Day is not a continuation of the precedent set by the Sovereign they represent, but rather perpetuates an ancient custom of this country, dating from the days of the fur trade. The people of the trade traditionally paid their respects to their representative of government — the Master of the Fort — on New Year's Day.

The first recorded Levée in Canada was held on January 1st, 1646 in the Chateau St. Louis by Charles Huault de Montmagny, Governor of New France (later Québec) from 1636 to 1648. In addition to shaking hands and wishing a Happy New Year to citizens presenting themselves at the Chateau, the Governor informed guests of significant events in the Mother Country, as well as the state of affairs within the colony. (This tradition is carried on today within The Commonwealth in the form of The Queen's New Year's Message. The State-of-the-Union address by the President of the United States, although not delivered on New Year's Day, has similar origins.) In turn, the settlers were expected to pledge anew their allegiance to the Crown.

The Levée tradition was continued by British Colonial Governors in Canada, and subsequently by Governors General and Lieutenant-Governors, and continues to the present day.

Records suggest that only after British Columbia entered Confederation in 1871 were Levées regularly held by the Lieutenant-Governor of the Province, and that Colonial Governors of Vancouver and (Mainland) British Columbia did not customarily hold them on New Year's Day. The (Victoria) Colonist of January 3rd, 1872 reported that "... His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor (Sir Joseph J.W. Trutch) and family received and entertained many callers at their private residence". Subsequent Levées were held, for the most part, in Government House.
Although receptions hosted by the President of the United States of America are occasionally referred to as Levées, over the years, the Levée has become almost solely a Canadian observance.

Today, the word Levée describes 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 advent of another year and to provide an opportunity for the public to pay their respects.

The Levée has a long tradition in the Canadian Forces as one of the activities associated with New Year's Day. In years past, Military Commanders garrisoned throughout the vast expanse of Canada held local Levées since, as Commissioned Officers, they were expected to act on behalf of the Crown on such occasions.

On the West Coast, Levées are a well-established tradition, given that Vancouver Island was the base for the Royal Navy's Pacific Fleet, beginning in the 1840s.

Today, as in bygone years, members of the various Canadian Forces units and Headquarters across Canada receive and greet visiting military and civilian guests in the convivial spirit of the first day of the New Year.

As has the Levée itself, refreshments served at Levées have undergone change — in importance and variety — over the years.

In colonial times, when the formalities of the Levée had been completed, guests were treated to wine and cheeses from the homeland. Wines did not travel well during the long ocean voyage to Canada; so, to make the cloudy and somewhat sour wine more palatable, it was doctored with alcohol and spices, and heated. The concoction came to be known as "Le Sang du Caribou", or Moose Blood.
Under British Colonial rule, many of the customs of French Canada were retained but, in the case of "Le Sang du Caribou", whisky, which travelled better, was substituted as the basic ingredient. This was then mixed with goat's milk, and flavoured with nutmeg and cinnamon to produce an Anglicized version called "Moose Milk". Today's version of Moose Milk, in addition to whisky (or rum) and spices, uses a combination of egg-nog and ice-cream and sometimes an additional alcoholic refinement or two.

Refreshments were clearly an important element in the New Year's festivities. A report of the New Year's Levée held in Brandon House in Manitoba in 1797 indicated that "... in the morning the Canadians (men of the North West Company) make the House and Yard ring with saluting (the firing of rifles). The House then filled with them when they all got a dram each". Simpson's Athabasca Journal reports that on January 1st, 1821, "the Festivities of the New Year commenced at four o'clock this morning when the people honoured me with a salute of fire arms, and in half an hour afterwards the whole Inmates of our Garrison assembled in the hall dressed out in their best clothes, and were regaled in a suitable manner with a few flaggon's Rum and some Cakes. A full allowance of Buffaloe meat was served out to them and a pint of spirits for each man".

Indeed, when residents called upon the Governor to pay their respects, they expected party fare. On Vancouver Island, there was "an almighty row" in 1856 when the Colonial Governor's Levée was not to their liking.

In military messes, hospitality is dispensed in a variety of forms, from the previously-mentioned Moose Milk (with rum often substituted for whisky), and the special flaming punch of the Royal Canadian Hussars of Montreal — a concoction bequeathed to the regiment by the old 1st Motor Machine Gun Brigade, and requiring a month to prepare — to the famed Athole Brose, the brew of oatmeal, honey and whisky of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, Vancouver.

Historically, the Levée has been largely a male preserve having its origins, as previously mentioned, in the Royal bedchamber. This custom persisted, in part, because of societal practices of earlier days, and quite possibly the fact that it was an occasion enlivened by quantities of rum or other spirits, and thus was often a raucous celebration.

During the Second World War, Levées were attended by female officers of the Armed Forces, and since then the "men only" tradition has given way to Levées attended by both men and women.

From the rather boisterous celebrations of early times to the somewhat more sedate, if informal, event of today, the Levée has evolved into an occasion to call upon representatives of the Sovereign, military, and municipal governments, to exchange New Year's greetings and best wishes for the coming year, and to renew old acquaintances and meet new friends in a convivial atmosphere. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the events of the past year and to welcome in the challenges and opportunities of the New Year.
 

Edward Campbell

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About  35 to 50 years ago the Levée was a bit of an endurance contest. All officers were, of course, expected to attend the New Years Ball and it was pretty bad form to leave before the Colonel and Mrs. Colonel so one was lucky to have seen a young lady home, gotten a few hours sleep and returned to base or returned to base and gotten a few hours sleep (as the case/luck might have been), before being required to RV in the Mess at 10:00 Hrs in No 2 order of dress (blue patrols, medals for those who had ‘em, etc). Since the shoes and trousers for No 2s were the same ones word to dance the night away just a few hours before one’s batman might have had some work to do, too.

In the Mess the 2I/C organized officers into:

+ The “home team” who would stay in our Mess to receive guests; and

+ Several “Mobile Drinking Teams” who would be driven, in sedans and vans, on circuits to visit two or three other Messes (regular and reserve) and, depending on the place, some ‘distinguished’ civilian locales – City Hall, perhaps, maybe a major university, that sort of thing.

The heart of the event, as geo explained, was “moose milk” and there were as many recipes as there were units – each distinguished from the others only by, so far as I could tell, the ease with which they went down as the day wore on.  A few units eschewed “moose milk” and served “Black Velvet” (Guinness and Champagne) – that was a neat way to end the day and more than one subaltern did, indeed, ‘end’ his day after a couple of them on top of a half day’s worth of other libations.

Near as I could tell the major beneficiary of the New Year’s Levée was the adjutant. For the next several weeks he had no need to scan his book for orderly officers – there were enough doing “extras” to keep the roster fill until the end of winter.


 

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http://www.okmilmuseum.ca/okmilmuseumspecialeventsNYlevee.htm

And if you are in Manitoba... ??? ::)
http://www.lg.gov.mb.ca/levee.html
Traditional New Year's Levee

held at Legislative Building moved to

May 23, 2009

at Government House
 

geo

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LEVEE Day throughout Canada
Nova Scotia
HALIFAX, N.S. – The 2009 New Year's Levees will take place on Thursday, 1 January throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality at the following locations, dates and times:
Municipality of Halifax: Thursday, 1 January
08:30-10:00 Halifax City Hall
10:00-12:00 Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Halifax (Wardroom)
11:00-13:00 12 Wing Shearwater (Officers' Mess)
11:00-13:00 Halifax Armouries (Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' Mess)
11:00-12:00 St. Mary's Glebe (1508 Barrington Street)
11:00-14:00 Shearwater Yacht Club
11:30-12:30 Province House
11:30-13:30 Her Majesty's Canadian Ship Sackville (Jetty NC1)
12:00-13:00 Anglican Diocesan Centre (5732 College Street)
12:00-13:30 Royal Artillery Park
12:00-14:00 CFB Halifax (Fleet Club)
12:00-17:00 CFB Halifax (CPO's and PO'/ WO' and Sergeants Mess S105) 
13:30-15:30 33rd Service Battalion (Combined Mess: Building 5, Willow Park)
Ontario
Everyone is invited to come to Toronto City Hall to welcome the new year at the annual Mayor's New Year's Levee on Thursday, January 1, 2009 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Ring in New Year's Day with Mayor David Miller and Members of Council. Young and old are encouraged to come to Toronto City Hall to meet with Mayor Miller and City Councillors, to enjoy local entertainment and to have some refreshments.
Having originated in France (from the verb lever, to raise), it was in Canada that the Levee 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 — to mark the start of another year and to provide an opportunity for the public and public officials to exchange greetings.
New Year's Day Levee a joint effort at Lake St. Armoury
Civic-minded revelers, mark your calendars.
The New Year can be celebrated in the company of your city councillors and local army reserve units.
Members of St. Catharines city council, the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, the 10th Battery, 56 Field Regiment and Royal Canadian Artillery will host a joint New Year’s Day Levee.
The joint celebration welcoming 2009 will be held at the Lake Street Armoury, starting at 11 a.m. Traditional toasts take place at noon.
Last year, Mayor Brian McMullan and councillors hosted the first civic levee in many years. They decided to join forces with local army reserve units after the Lincoln and Welland Regiment made the suggestion.
“It makes it easier for the public to be able to attend one and we thought it would be a nice show of support for our military, the men and women who serve in the armed forces,” McMullan said.
There’s one other perk, too.
“What was really exciting for me is I get to fire a cannon,” he said with a laugh.
In a news release, Lt.-Col. Matt Richardson, the Regiment’s commanding officer, said the event is an opportunity to connect with local residents and to observe traditions that have been carried out for many generations.
Think Bull’s Milk, the Lincs and Winks holiday concoction of eggnog, rum, whisky and other surprises.
The tradition of hosting a levee goes back to the 18th century. In an effort to show the sovereign served the people, King Louis XIV invited men to his bedroom on New Year’s Day to watch him wake and begin serving the people on the first day of the new year.
BC
New Years Day Levee at the Maritime Museum of BC
Thursday, January 1st, 2009
11:00 AM to 3:00 PM
The Maritime Museum will welcome in 2009 with our annual New Year’s Day Levee.

We will be open FREE to the public from 11a.m.-3 p.m. with entertainment by the Victoria Morris Dancers at 1 o’clock.

Everyone is welcome to come and drink hot apple cider and explore one of Victoria’s best kept secrets.

The RWR (Westies) will also ring in the New Year on Jan 1st - just unsure about the timing.....

Quebec - units holding a levee...

34 Combat Engineer Regiment (10 AM start)
The Black Watch (RHR of C)
The Royal Montreal Regiment (10 AM start)

 

PanaEng

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Nice to see Halifax so well organized and documented.
Anything for Ottawa?

cheers,
Frank
 

Nfld Sapper

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In St. John's,

Thursday, 1 January 2009
On Thursday, 1 January 2009, from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m., The Lieutenant Governor and Her Honour Jane Furneaux Crosbie will welcome members of the public at the traditional New Year's Levee at Government House.
 

TN2IC

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PanaEng said:
Nice to see Halifax so well organized and documented.
Anything for Ottawa?

cheers,
Frank

We always are.. each year I"ve been stuck driving around the drunk officers for this. I"ve never really enjoy it.... (go figure).... but boys.. talk about blackmail! Hehehehe...  >:D
 

Sigs Pig

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An amendment to Cataract Kid's post on Manitoba's GG....
THURSDAY, JANUARY 1

    8:00 a.m. - Attend Cameron Highlanders Regimental New Year's Levee
    Minto Armoury
    969 St. Matthews Avenue

    12:00 p.m. - Attend Manitoba Club's New Year’s Day "At Home" Levee
    Manitoba Club
    194 Broadway

    2:00 p.m. - Host Lieutenant Governor's Private New Year's Levee
    Government House
    10 Kennedy Street
Sounds like he does not want to share his 'nog with the peasants....

ME
 

PuckChaser

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I'll be in Toronto, probably starting at Fort York Armoury. First year I get to go and find out how my Dad been spending his New Year's day for the last 24 years of my life!
 

geo

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IIRC, in Montreal, the following will probably be open.....
HMCS Donnacona Chiefs & POs mess
RCH /2 Fd RCA (Cote des Neiges armoury)
34 CER
CGG
BW (RHR of C)
FMR (?)
RMR
51 Svc Bn
51 Fd Amb
 

1feral1

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E.R. Campbell said:
The heart of the event, as geo explained, was “moose milk” and there were as many recipes as there were units – each distinguished from the others only by, so far as I could tell, the ease with which they went down as the day wore on.  A few units eschewed “moose milk” and served “Black Velvet” (Guinness and Champagne) – that was a neat way to end the day and more than one subaltern did, indeed, ‘end’ his day after a couple of them on top of a half day’s worth of other libations.
A friend of mine, the late WO George Gerhart (PPCLI) had given me the original WW1 ingredients of the PPCLI 'offical' Moose Milk, of too on the odd Aussie Army occasion have endeavoured to replicate with great success.  :cheers:

OWDU.
 

Rifleman62

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OWDU

Do you mean what I think you do by "the late WO George Gerhart (PPCLI)" ?? I knew George as the driver for the CO of 2PPCLI in Germany,1968 (lived in the same hut) and for the many years he was with 2PPCLI in Wpg and subsequently RSS.

Of Moose Milk, I made the batch for Minto WO's & Sgts Mess and the Officers Mess for several years. Egg Nog, ice cream, dark rum and good brandy. Three to one ratio. Smooth and powerful.
 

geo

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Heh.... there are more moose milk recipies around than you can shake a stick at...... tailored to taste
Often MUST include the regimental drink - which is carried in plentiful quantities behind the bar
 

Rifleman62

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Happy New Year

Well you would not want The Royal Winnipeg Rifles' regimental drink -  Black Devil (named for obvious reasons), dark rum layered on cream de mint to produce the regimental colours of black and green. One shot of each. One Black Devil hosted by the WO's & Sgts,  followed by a short march for another Black Devil  hosted by the Officers. A shooter of course. Starts at "high noon", one hour from now. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I have recently moved from Wpg, and can not partake. Actually, a terrible drink. Would not go with or in moose milk.
 

1feral1

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Rifleman62 said:
OWDU

Do you mean what I think you do by "the late WO George Gerhart (PPCLI)" ?? I knew George as the driver for the CO of 2PPCLI in Germany,1968 (lived in the same hut) and for the many years he was with 2PPCLI in Wpg and subsequently RSS.

Sadly, George passed away from brain cancer. Heard that thru the PPCLI Assn.

Regards,

Wes
 
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