Saanich is trading in its traditional, somewhat stuffy, New Year’s Day levée – a meet-and-greet with the mayor and council – for something the whole family can enjoy.
Families are instead invited to Saanich Commonwealth Place for a free swim from 10 a.m. to noon on Jan. 1, 2013.
“Levées have been fading in popularity for some time, so we said to our staff, ‘For the little bit of money we’re spending, what other ideas do you have so we can reach some more people and some new people?’” said Mayor Frank Leonard. “They came back with this suggestion, and I’m hoping it becomes a new tradition.”
In Canada, levées are held on New Year’s Day and stem from a custom that dates back to the fur trade, when traders would pay their respects to their government representatives on January 1.
Leonard says Saanich has been hosting levées as far back as he can remember, but he’s optimistic that a free family swim is more suitable for families in this day and age.
“I would be willing to see how it goes (this year) and then expand it to other rec centres,” he said. “I’d really like to see this grow so that New Year’s Day morning is a real family outing for folks.”
Oak Bay isn’t hosting a levée, either. Instead, an hour-long community walk with mayor and council will begin at 12:30 p.m., followed by a free skate and swim beginning at 1:30 at the Oak Bay rec centre.
Victoria and Esquimalt will both host traditional levées in their respective council chambers on New Year’s Day.
Leonard says he and council will be at Commonwealth during the free swim and light refreshments, but it won’t be in a formal meet-and-greet. He said he hasn’t yet decided whether Saanichites will get to jump in the pool with their mayor.
Regardless, he’s optimistic the event will be popular, adding that it’ll be a much more pleasant swim than the annual Polar Bear Swim at Elk Lake. The 37th annual Polar Bear Swim happens Jan. 1 at 2 p.m. at Hamsterly Beach.
New Year’s Day levées around the region
-9 to 10 a.m.: HMCS Malahat, The Wardroom, 20 Huron St.
-10 a.m. to noon: Government House, 1401 Rockland Ave.
-10 to 11 a.m.: Canadian Scottish Regiment, Bay Street Armoury, 715 Bay St.
-10:30 a.m. to noon: 11 Victoria Field Ambulance, 11 Service Battalion and 12 Military Police Platoon, Lt.-Gen. E.C. Ashton Armoury, 724 Vanalman Ave.
-Noon to 1:30 p.m.: City of Victoria, City Hall, 1 Centennial Square
n 1 to 2:30 p.m. Township of Esquimalt, Municipal Hall, 1229 Esquimalt Rd.