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 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 (although in recent years even this barrier has been breaking down), 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 your hosts — 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.
  • The refreshments are vary greatly from levee to levee: sometimes there’s alcohol, sometimes not. Some levees have sandwiches and snacks, some just sweets. You don’t have to pay (there are a few exceptions to this where you’ll find a cash bar; this will be obvious).
  • 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 Levee


Vice Regal of Fanningbank's picture
Vice Regal of F... on December 30, 2008 - 22:22 Permalink

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
Ian MacAdam on January 1, 2009 - 06:14 Permalink

This was great Peter, best overview of the levees that I have heard.

Wino-Fred's picture
Wino-Fred on January 6, 2009 - 01:58 Permalink

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
Marc Doiron on December 30, 2009 - 20:58 Permalink

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
Shirley S. Jay on December 29, 2011 - 21:29 Permalink

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
Philip Brown on December 30, 2013 - 19:47 Permalink

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!

Andy Hennessey's picture
Andy Hennessey on December 31, 2014 - 12:13 Permalink

We have been attending levees seems like forever. We try to take in 10 or 12 (timing is everything!) We start with Lt. Gov. and end with the Premier's. Great day to get out and mix, not only with the VIPs, but with friends and family whom you have not seen in quite a while. The refreshments are usually very good and of course meeting so many friends is the best part - even if it is just a quick chance to say "Hello" and "Happy New Year"!

cindy weatherbie's picture
cindy weatherbie on December 25, 2015 - 11:17 Permalink

Is would like to attend a few levees on jan 1 2016 . I am coming to pei the 30 dec which ones do yu recommend?

Paul Pendergast's picture
Paul Pendergast on December 31, 2015 - 12:18 Permalink

The Mayor is always a good one. PEI Regiment is also good. BIS is very good. And any others you have any connection to at all.

marcia burke's picture
marcia burke on December 29, 2017 - 07:01 Permalink

Hi i would like to come to your party

vbj's picture
vbj on January 1, 2018 - 09:47 Permalink

I love reading about the levees every year. I confess to a bit of levee envy! We don't have them in Vermont and I am convinced we should.

ML's picture
ML on January 2, 2023 - 00:38 Permalink

It just turned Jan 2, 2023. I only JUST heard (read) about these levee parties! Shame. We spent the day reading and cooking at home and it sounds like everyone on the island was dressed up and off to countless parties! Where is one supposed to get up-to-date information about PEI activities? We have lived here six months and would like to be in-the-know about all the interesting things going on locally so we might participate. Any suggestions you can share? Thank you!

Rod's picture
Rod on December 25, 2023 - 16:19 Permalink

I read your comment from nearly one year ago and would just like to ask how the past year was for you on PEI and ... will you be going to some levees a week from today?