P.E.I.'s 2017 New Year's levees: A comprehensive guide
'This year I've decided to go whole hog and I've got levees on the list from Souris to Tignish'
Whether you're a levee newbie or a seasoned expert, you'll enjoy these tips — and a complete list including maps— of P.E.I.'s many New Year's Day 2017 levees, from Peter Rukavina, who began leveeing back in 2004.
The levee is a centuries-old tradition originating from a French military ritual whereby the enlisted soldiers would visit their commanding office to bring New Year's greetings, according to a P.E.I. government release. The formality was adopted by early British commanders and soldiers and eventually it became a widely-celebrated custom, especially in Prince Edward Island.
I don't think you could go to all 37 unless you had a helicopter,.— Peter Rukavina
"There are no rules, although there are traditions," said Rukavina. "You don't have to wear a morning coat or a particular type of corsage or anything — although you could."
Besides politicians like the premier and mayors, a variety of community and service groups and even businesses host leveees, as does the Island's Catholic Bishop and UPEI.
How levees work
"You show up at the appointed time at the appointed facility," Rukavina said. Be prepared to wait in a lineup, and take the opportunity to say hello to friends who are also waiting. There may or may not be a coat check.
At the end of the line, you will be greeted by your host and are expected to introduce yourself and shake hands with that dignitary and their family and/or colleagues.
You may then proceed to partake of refreshments on offer, Rukavina said.
Rukavina enjoys the fast-paced, organized way the levees unfold, and thinks "it's a good way to start the new year."
Rukavina's comprehensive schedule of all P.E.I. levees is on his blog, ruk.ca.
Most people, he said, begin the day of levees with a visit to the Lieutenant-Governor's mansion in Charlottetown, Fannningbank from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Visitors this year to the Lieutenant Governor's levee will receive a Canada 150 pin to commemorate the beginning of a year of special activities and events to mark Canada's 150th birthday, with music as always by The Singing Strings.
If you hurry you can just catch Charlottetown's mayor's levee from 10:30 to noon, and from there, there are many choices: the historic Haviland Club offers a delicious alcoholic concotion called moose milk at its levee from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The P.E.I. Regiment's levee is just next door from noon to 1 p.m. at the Charlottetown Armoury, and is "the highlight of the day," said Rukavina, since it offers a cup of seafood chowder, a live band and a chance to tour the on-site military museum.
You can meet the Bishop of Charlottetown and see the renovations at the beautiful SDU Place, the "Old Bishop's Palace," next to St. Dunstan's Basilica from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
The Premier's levee is at the Confederation Centre of the Arts from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m., and the Firefighter's Club gathering begins at 5 p.m. and goes until 2 a.m. the next day.
"I don't think you could go to all 37 unless you had a helicopter," Rukavina joked. "But you could spend the day from 8 a.m. til, theoretically, 2 a.m. at the fire hall. You'd have a good day!"
Changes this year
There are some changes this year in the levees, Rukavina notes, including a couple of new levees: one at the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society's new building on Queen Street and one by P.E.I.'s Rotary clubs at the Charlottetown Hotel.
UPEI's levee has moved to the new School of Sustainable Design Engineering, and there is no levee this year at HMCS Queen Charlotte, the city's naval base.
For most of the 12 years Rukavina's been publishing his levee list, he's stuck to those in the Charlottetown area, but this year, he's going further afield.
"This year I've decided to go whole hog and I've got levees on the list from Souris to Tignish," he said.
Even P.E.I.'s Lieutenant Governor Frank Lewis acknowledges Rukavina as the preeminent authority on the Island's levees.
"Everyone is encouraged to take time to visit numerous levees. His Honour again directs interested persons to view Peter Rukavina's extensive list at ruk.ca/levee-2017 for confirmed events. Organizations wishing to be added to the list can contact Mr. Rukavina through his levee page," a release from Government House states.
"Sometimes I'll get email from people saying, 'We'd like to have a levee, is that OK?' Rukavina laughed.
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With files from CBC Radio: Island Morning