Happy New Year, everyone! Today, I followed a New Year’s Day tradition in Prince Edward Island — attending several levées in Charlottetown. There were many of these events across the Island today. The list below is just a partial list of those in the Charlottetown-Cornwall-Stratford, PEI areas. One man told me that he had attended as many as 23 levées on one New Year’s Day! We certainly didn’t partake in that many but we did attend six.
Levées have their origins in France. The first recorded Levée held in Canada was in 1646. Originally, these were events reserved for men but, for decades now, women also attend. The purpose of levées is to give the opportunity for citizens to pay their respects and offer well wishes for the new year to representatives of the Monarch, provincial and municipal leaders, the military and, really, any other group or organization that chooses to host a Levée. In Charlottetown today, for example, the President of the University of Prince Edward Island was hosting a levée as was the Bishop, the Women’s Institute, and some business owners. Levées are very social events and are traditionally a way for those in public office to connect with the citizens they serve and for people to mix and mingle while renewing old acquaintances as they gather.
Typically a levée lasts 1-2 hours. Calling cards or business cards are appreciated as each levée-goer is presented to the dignitaries. However, if you don’t have your own cards, blank ones are available at each venue. It is not uncommon for groups of people to sport around in mini-vans with designated drivers or hire a bus or mini-bus to transport them between the levée venues. This is a particularly good idea for those intending to “imbibe”. It also helps with parking as levées on the Island are a popular way to spend New Year’s Day and, generally, draw crowds of several hundred.
Some people actually strategize and plan out the best way for them to attend as many levées as possible. Some have it down to a science!
A big part of levées are the refreshments. In PEI, we can certainly boast of our hospitality and refreshments at events like levées! The fare and beverage offerings vary from venue to venue but, suffice it to say that you wouldn’t have to visit too many levées before your tummy would be full. I’ll talk more about the refreshment aspect as I describe the six levées I attended today. As you can imagine, as a foodie, I was particularly interested in the fare served!
Our day started out at 10:00am by visiting Fanningbank, home of the Island’s Lieutenant-Governor, Frank Lewis.
Last year, it was drizzling rain and we had a long wait outside but, this year, we were there at the start of the levée and had no wait to speak of. Good thing as it was about -7C this morning. The architecture of this fine Georgian-style home is well worth a visit. The Christmas decorations were still in place and the wood fireplaces were crackling and sending good warmth throughout the home.
The Singing Strings, a youth string orchestra, entertained and provided wonderful background music as visitors wound their way around the grand foyer to greet the Lieutenant-Governor and his wife.
After bestowing good wishes for the forthcoming year to Her Majesty’s representative on the Island, attendees were offered the choice of either hot apple cider or a cranberry and vodka cocktail.
The dining room table displayed several plates of fruit cake (which was very moist and tasty, by the way) and, what I considered to be the star of the food table, wonderful coconut macaroons, nice, soft, and chewy – just the way macaroons are supposed to be!
Aren’t these coconut macaroons resplendent in their holiday colors!
From Fanningbank, we made our way up Kent Street to City Hall where Mayor Clifford Lee and the city councillors were receiving Levée-goers. Our City’s leaders looked fine, each sporting a red rose on his lapel.
Treats at City Hall included crackers and cheese along with cookies including gingerbread men. Beverages consisted of a choice of white wine, fruit punch, tea, or Starbuck’s coffee.
PEI harpist, Jill Harris, provided wonderful background music for the event.
Leaving City Hall, we travelled down to Haviland Street to the Haviland Club. I had never been in this historic building before and found its interior design quite intriguing. Refreshments consisted of cheese, crackers, and cold cuts along with a vegetable and dip platter and the bar was open at the Club today as well.
Our next stop took us to the HMCS Queen Charlotte on Water Street Parkway. I had heard that they served great seafood chowder at their Levée and, as those of you who are regular followers of my blog and twitter will know, this foodie has a thing for seafood chowder! This version was really good served with a choice of white or whole wheat roll. Their signature beverage was Moose Milk. Yes, that’s right, Moose Milk – not quite sure on the exact ingredients but it is a concoction of rum or whiskey (not sure which), milk or eggnog, ice cream, and spices and ….. I didn’t get to try it because I was driving but I heard it was really good!
Next on the agenda was the Prince Edward Island Regiment on Haviland Street. These two lads stood at attention as levée-goers made their way inside and I’m sure these two fellas must have been frozen.
The PEI Regiment band was entertaining inside. The Regiment served chowder as well and had the packages of crackers laid out in the shape of 2013. Having just had chowder up the street, I had to pass this one by but it sure looked good, too.
After a busy morning of five levées, we took a mini break and then attended Premier Robert Ghiz‘ levée held from 3:00pm – 5:00pm at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in the city center where the Premier and his wife, Kate, along with their two wee daughters greeted Islanders.
There was a huge line-up for this levée but we arrived about 20 minutes before it began and were easily able to get inside the lobby from the cold while we waited. Each attendee was photographed with the Premier and his wife (last year, the photographs arrived in the mail 2-3 weeks into January).
The reception was held inside Memorial Hall where there were trays of fruit, cheeses, and crudités and waiters circulated with trays of bacon-wrapped scallops.
My favorite was the same as last year, a whipped garlic potato piped into small dishes and then topped with bacon bits, sundried tomatoes and chives, and/or sour cream. Simply divine!
Fruit punch, wine, tea, and coffee were also available.
A pianist provided background music.
I hope you have enjoyed this mini-tour of just a few of the New Year’s Day levées held on our beautiful Island on this cool winter day.
Best wishes to you and yours for good health, happiness, and prosperity in 2013.