Category Archives: New Year’s Celebrations

New Year’s Celebrations

January 1, 2019

Historic Jacksonville began wondering how the Victorians celebrated New Year’s. While we didn’t find any specific Jacksonville information, we did learn that New Year’s traditions changed significantly over the course of the 19th Century. Before Christmas made a holiday “comeback” (many thanks to Moores’ “T’was the Night Before Christmas” and Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”), New Years was the primary gift-giving day. A favorite gift was an orange stuck with cloves, floated in the “wassail” bowl—i.e., a serving of spiked wine punch. In New York and some cities, it became a “Sadie Hawkins Day” when gentlemen were responsible for making social calls on the ladies rather than calling normally being the ladies’ role. Before long, the men apparently made it a competition to see how many visits to ladies they could rack up. (Of course, they were typically rewarded with sherry or eggnog at each stop.) Toward the end of the 1800s and continuing into the 1930s, the President even held a New Year’s Day reception at the White House—first receiving diplomats and government officials and then throwing the doors open to the general public, “who for the space of two hours paid their respects to the Chief Magistrate of the Nation.”