EARLY NEW YEAR
CELEBRATIONS IN WINNIPEG
by George Siamandas
New Year's is reported as being one of the best holiday seasons in the city's short history. The depression caused by the 1881 boom was over. Crops had been good and the CPR was nearing completion. Winnipeg was on a roll that would last for the next 30 years. People celebrated with hogmanay parties, followed by "first footing" which was popular amongst people of Scottish descent. And lots of visiting. The New Eve Year's Party was the Hudson Bay Ball held at the store at York and Main St. and was attended by the city's leading citizens.
On New Year's Day people took to the streets. The paper notes: "the air was filled with the clatter of hooves and the merry music of sleigh bells." Sleighs paraded up and down Main St and then turned onto Portage Ave for races out to Silver Heights where they would stop for something hot at the Deer Lodge Hotel.
The newspaper article reporting on this in 1886 estimated that the horseflesh parading on that day was worth over $25,000. And the "snow sparkled like diamonds in the golden rays of the declining sun and shouts of rosy cheeked drivers wafted on the air."
The first New Yaers Levee was given on January 1, 1871 by Lieut Gov Adams Archibald from government house. This is the home where state hospitality is dispensed. Only men in the early 1880s called on govt house. People of various communities have always been invited to serve at the levee.
In 1871 Government House was actually an old house in Silver Heights. Archibald complained about this remote location five miles from the centre of business and government. Especially in that first year after the Riel rebellion when he saw the need for a military guard.
Then it was moved to Fort Garry. In fact the painted panels behind Fort Garry Gate depict the exact appearance of the Governor's House as it appeared about 1880. As now, everyone was welcome to Government House. Now they visit at the legislative building.
The current govt house has served since fall 1883. The first person to occupy it was James Cox Aikins.