Levées kick off year of celebration

When Esquimalt and Victoria residents ring in the new year, they will have more than one reason to celebrate.

When Esquimalt and Victoria residents ring in the new year, they will have more than one reason to celebrate.

Esquimalt will turn 100 years old in 2012, and to mark the occasion municipal council will don their best historic fashions for the municipality’s New Year’s Day levée.

Residents are also invited to dress up for the traditional levée, one of more than a dozen open houses hosted that day throughout the Capital Region.

“I just thought it would be fun and exciting to do something special at the levée, and how much more special would it be to start off the year in 1912 garb,” said Mayor Barb Desjardins.

Likewise, the City of Victoria’s levée will get a festive boost to kick off the first of many celebrations marking the municipality’s 150th anniversary.

In addition to cups of java and baked goods, anniversary balloons, stickers, pins and mugs will be handed out in honour of the anniversary.

“It’s an early reminder to people that we’ll be celebrating this year,” said Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe, who will be acting mayor during the levée.” It’s an incentive to get up early.”

The Jan. 1 levées began in Canada in 1646 and Victoria in the 1800s. The word levée has French origins, meaning ‘to rise,’ especially from sleep.

In addition to open houses hosted by several municipalities on the South Island, military reserve units in Victoria and Saanich are once again welcoming the public on the first day of the new year.

At Government House, more than 1,000 people will pay a visit to B.C.’s Lt.-Gov. Steven Point and his wife Gwendolyn.

In Saanich, the event will again feature young musicians from the Greater Victoria school district’s string orchestra, and coffee, tea and cookies will be served.

But the time may come when the levée will need to be modernized to appeal to a wider cross section of residents.

“Year to year I see these things ebb and flow (in attendance numbers),” said Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, adding the levées are typically attended by elderly residents.

“I’m open to suggestions on how it could change.”

The Langford Legion is keeping up the levée tradition for the West Shore, which has the ever-popular “moose milk” drink on offer.

Levées across Greater Victoria

HMCS Malahat, The Wardroom, 20 Huron St., 9 to 10 a.m.

– City of Victoria, City Hall, 1 Centennial Square, 9 to 10:30 a.m.

– Government House, 1401 Rockland Ave., 10 a.m. to noon.

– Canadian Scottish Regiment, Bay Street Armoury, 715 Bay St., 10 to 11 a.m.

– 11 Victoria Field Ambulance, 11 Service Battalion and 12 Military Police Platoon, Lt.-Gen. E.C. Ashton Armoury, 724 Vanalman Ave., 10:30 a.m. to noon

– District of Sooke, council chambers, 10 a.m. to noon p.m., 2205 Otter Point Rd.

– Corporation of Oak Bay, Monterey Recreation Centre, 1442 Monterey Ave., 1 to 2:30 p.m.

– Township of Esquimalt, municipal hall, 1229 Esquimalt Rd., 1 to 2 p.m.

– District of Saanich, municipal hall, 770 Vernon Ave., 1 to 2:30 p.m.

– Royal Canadian Legion in Langford, 761 Station Ave., 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.