On New Year’s Day my husband and I attended the Lieutenant Governor’s New Year Levée, held at the Manitoba Legislative Building. I knew it was an annual event, one of those things I told myself that we should attend…someday. Since 2017 is a special year, the celebration of 150 years since Confederation, I decided that this would be the year.
According to news reports, about 1300 people attended this year’s celebration, and judging by the number of cars parked in the area, that seems about right.
I stood in line to shake Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon’s hand, as well as other dignitaries. Fruitcake, cookies and punch were served. Musical entertainment was provided. I came away with a Canada 150 flag and pin, as pictured above.
A levée is a reception held “to mark the advent of another year and to provide an opportunity for the public to pay their respects.” You can read more about the levée here.
The tradition of a New Year Levée has a long history in Canada. The first recorded one was hosted in 1646 by the Governor of New France, Charles Huault de Montmagny, in the Château St. Louis in Quebec City.
We have many ancestors that were in the Quebec City area in 1646 and may have attended the Levée. There is no way to know for sure, but perhaps these ancestors paid their respects to the Governor: Abraham Martin, Olivier le Tardif, Jean Guyon , Zacharie Cloutier, Robert Drouin. You’ll notice that these are all men, as women were not ALLOWED to attend until World War II, when female members of the Armed Forces were permitted to join the event!
On the wonderful website Manitobia, I found a description of the Manitoba Levée of 1873.
Again, we can’t know if any of our ancestors and relations were in attendance. However, the Mr. Beauchemin, MPP (Member of the Provincial Parliament) who is mentioned, would have been Andre Beauchemin, uncle of Jean Baptiste Beauchemin who was married to my great-grandmother Philomene McMillan’s sister Marguerite.
During the time of the fur trade, a New Year’s celebration was the custom at the various forts. These seem to have been less subdued occasions. In the book Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade by Carolyn Podruchny, excerpts of which are available on Google Books here, we learn:
“Feasting, drinking, and levees, or paying courtesy calls on masters (particularly on New Year’s Day), were characteristic of celebrations in fur trade society.”
Undoubtedly James McMillan, John Warren Dease and Amable Hogue would have partaken in these festivities.
I seem to remember my Mother mentioning that in La Salle, it was the custom for families to visit the grandfathers on New Year’s Day.
I enjoyed attending the Lieutenant Governor’s New Year Levée of 2017, and it resulted in a brief moment of “fame”. That evening on Global News as we watched their coverage of the event, my husband and I walked into the frame!