What Are You Doing New Year’s Day?

Nineteenth-century New Year's Day calling card. Image (via The Farmers' Museum Blog) from the collection of the New York State Historical Association Research Library.

Nineteenth-century New Year’s Day calling card. Image (via The Farmers’ Museum Blog) from the collection of the New York State Historical Association Research Library.

In nineteenth-century America, it was a custom to pay calls on New Year’s Day. Homes were opened to the public and light refreshments were served to visitors. It is actually possible to pinpoint the historical moment when this custom stopped in Wellington, Ohio.

In 1876, The Wellington Enterprise reported, “It has been suggested to us that for the convenience of all parties, it would be well for the ladies of Wellington who expect to keep open house on New Year’s day, to send in their names by Tuesday next, and the list will be given in the ENTERPRISE, as we shall publish no paper the last week of the year” (12-7-1876, pg. 3).

But just four years later: “Wellington people mostly observed New Year’s day by staying at home and going through their ordinary business routine. A few families and young people got what pleasure they could out of the beautiful sleighing, but the weather was too cold to make that diversion very enjoyable. The custom of making New Year’s calls has for some reason fallen into disrepute, and was entirely omitted in Wellington this year. The necessity of so much extra work on the part of the ladies to provide refreshments is enough to discourage the average woman from undertaking it, and we are not surprised that they fail to find sufficient pleasure in New Year’s receptions to warrant their continuance” (1-6-1881, pg. 3).

Happy New Year, gentle readers. And if you are at home and going through your “ordinary business routine” today, there are brief but interesting pieces on nineteenth-century calling customs here and here.

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