How to Levee

It took me 10 years of living on Prince Edward Island before I felt capable of attending New Years Day levees here in Charlottetown. Initially I was confused about the whole idea (we never had levees in Ontario, at least not in my social class), and then later I was confused by the confounding requirement for a “calling card”:

Calling Cards Appreciated

I was afraid to ask anyone what a “calling card” was for fear of being called out as a neophyte — “Why good sir, have you not a goodly supply of calling cards in your saddle bag? Forsooth every noble Islander has always one at the ready!”

It took my brave friend G., back in 2004, to get me over the hump: he convinced me that I didn’t actually need a calling card at all. And so off we went.

If you are a levee virgin, here’s a friend set of pointers that you might find useful to get you over your own fears and into the levee habit:

  • While children generally aren’t taken to levees, everyone else is welcome, regardless of religion, gender, social class, noble rank, etc. Certain levees may feel unusual for certain people for different reasons, but I’ve yet to see anyone not warmly welcomed at each and every levee I’ve attended.
  • The proceeding is the same at every levee: you show up at the appointed time and get in line (the later you show up, the longer the line will be). Sometimes you’ll be offered the opportunity to check your coat, sometimes not (it will be obvious). The line generally leads to a receiving line of Important People — the Mayor and Councillors, or the President, or the Premier or the Bishop — who shake your hand and wish you a Happy New Year. At the end of the line there are refreshments on offer.
  • The refreshments are vary greatly from levee to levee: sometimes there’s alcohol on offer, sometimes not. Some levees have sandwiches and snacks, some just sweets. You don’t have to pay.
  • After milling about for what seems like an appropriate amount of time, you gather your coat if you’ve checked it, and head off to the next levee.
  • The role of the “calling card” is to allow the person running the receiving to whisper your name into the name of the Important People (or, sometimes, to just hand them the card so they can greet you by name). Some levees have blank cards and pens available for those without; if you end up without a card, fear not, as you can simply introduce yourself in person.

Haviland Club Receiving Line

Comments

Vice Regal of Fanningbank's picture
Best free drunk I ever had. A lot of the ‘eye candy’ is mature (perhaps past their prime) but the nibbles more than make up for any other shortcomings.
Ian MacAdam's picture
This was great Peter, best overview of the levees that I have heard.
Wino-Fred's picture
I’m surprised that you didn’t hear of levees when you were in Ontario. Each municipality in Toronto had one. We went to the East York levee every year. Good food but sometimes the wine wasn’t very good. Mayor used to bring his own home made stuff. Now we’ve moved to Beamsville, there are some great levees. The town of Lincoln (in wine country) and three wineries are invited to display two wines each. Then the local MPP has a levee at a local winery. Great food and wine.
Marc Doiron's picture
I’ve been attending Levee’s since my father was the LG back in the early 80’s. Other than the 5 years that I lived in Halifax, I haven’t missed a year. Always a great day.
Shirley S. Jay's picture
Great idea to blog about levees Peter. Thank you for the levee schedule, and CBC radio interview. I too did not understand levees until the topic was researched. We have attended for approx. the past 15 years. I’m curious to know how many years PEI’s “governing bodies” / military / Fed. / Prov. /other institutions have held levees. Shirley S. Jay
Philip Brown's picture

New Year's Day Levees are a great way to bring in the new year. So, if your able to get out and celebrate with lots of other people, come join the rest of us to bring in the sesquicentennial of the Charlottetown Conference. Happy 2014!

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