Ring in the New Year | Victorian History | Meredith Sweetpea


Happy Victorian
New Year

In Victorian times, on New Year’s Day, wealthy Victorians would invite eligible bachelors into their homes to meet their daughters in sort of a formal open house tradition.

Victorian open houses ruled New Year’s Day

The bachelors would receive engraved invitations and arrived to enjoy a feast buffet of fine foods like turkey, oysters, chicken, fruitcake, sweets, and liquor-laced egg nog, and to enjoy mingling with any eligible young ladies of the house. Traditionally, all ladies and boys under age ten remained at home to receive callers while the gentlemen went out to pay visits. Newspapers sometimes even printed lists of homes that were open and the times the family would receive visitors.

Rules dictated that the gentlemen callers stay no longer than 15 minutes, and then the moved on to another invitation to do the same.

They wore their best clothes, sporting swallowtail coats, ascots, spatstop hats, and gloves to show their best, and the ladies did the same, donning their finest and brightest silk gowns for the gentlemen callers.  The men left their calling cards at each house, which enabled the young women to brag about just how many cards each received. And the men turned it into a sport, of sorts, to see if they could rack up as many as 50 visits that day.

By the 1890s, the tradition to open the house to strangers on New Year’s Day was discouraged, and died out to a more formal open house for family and invited guests only. Then, after WWII, the New Year’s Day calling died out completely, to be replaced by the New Year’s Eve party.

Other Victorian New Years traditions

Sometimes Victorians held New Year’s Day balls, or men would gather to play cards or football (remember photographs of the Kennedy clan playing football over the holidays?)

Other New Year’s traditions included wearing new clothes to symbolize the new year, sounding bells at midnight, having the head of house throw a cake against the door to ward off hunger in the near year, and flinging open the front door to shout “welcome” to the new year.

Miss Meredith Sweetpea wonders why parents don’t do the same today for their eligible daughters!! After all, she is still a “Miss” herself.


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