PRESIDENTIAL HANDSHAKES ON NEW YEAR’S DAY

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President Andrew Johnson in the East Room 1866

For more than a century, New Year’s Day was marked by a large reception held at the White House. Foreign ambassadors and members of the US government were invited, but attendance wasn’t restricted to a guest list. Astoundingly, anyone could wait on line, enter the White House, and shake the hand of the president.

The tradition of the New Year’s reception, or levee, as it was often called, began with George Washington, before the White House was built. The first occupant of the White House, John Adams, took up residence in the unfinished mansion in November 1800, and hosted its first New Year’s reception on January 1, 1801.

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George Washington

A history of the White House published a century ago noted that John and Abigail Adams hosted a “very formal affair”:

The President and his wife did the honors alone that New Year’s Day, and it does not seem to have occurred to them to call on the Cabinet families to assist them. The President’s wife sat in state in her brocades and velvets, while the President stood beside her in knee-breeches, gaily colored waistcoat, high stock collar, and his powdered hair tied in a neat queue. After each guest had paid his respects to them, he passed on and was served with refreshments by a waiter.

Thomas Jefferson Sets the Tone

John Adams would only spend one New Year’s Day in the White House, as Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated in March 1801. Jefferson continued the tradition of the New Year’s Day levee, though his personal style was hardly formal.

It was Jefferson who began the tradition of shaking hands with each and every visitor. He would stand in the oval reception room at the center of the White House (known today as the Blue Room). The line of visitors would pass by, and Jefferson would take delight in exchanging friendly greetings.

It was customary for foreign diplomats to attend the New Year’s reception in distinctive dress. In Jefferson’s day it was noted that the French ambassador was “decked in gold lace,” while an ambassador from North Africa wore silk slippers, a turban, and a scarlet jacket “embroidered with precious stones.” Native Americans would also attend, and it was written that they sported feathers in their hair and wore blankets and deerskin moccasins.

The White House Burns But Tradition Endures

Following the burning of the White House by British troops in 1814, the New Year’s Day levees were held in the rented houses used by presidents James Madison and James Monroe.

The White House receptions resumed on January 1, 1818, hosted by Monroe in the rebuilt mansion. At that time it was decided to hold an earlier reception for the foreign diplomats and government officials, so they wouldn’t be subjected to the crush of people in the public reception.

Customarily, anyone waiting on line outside would be admitted. After greeting the president in the Blue Room, the crowd would be directed into the enormous East Room. A temporary wooden bridge would be positioned in one of the large front windows of the East Room, and the guests would exit through the window onto the White House lawn.

Shaking Hands and Making History

A marathon of handshaking became a footnote to a momentous event on January 1, 1863. President Abraham Lincoln intended to sign the Emancipation Proclamation on that day, but first he had to shake thousands of hands.

When he finally sat down in his upstairs study to sign the historic document, he told Secretary of State William Seward that his right hand was swollen.

Lincoln suspected this particular signature might be examined closely in years to come, and he didn’t want it to appear weak. He was later quoted as saying, “The signature looks a little tremulous, as my hand was tired, but my resolution was firm.”

The following year, the New York Timesprinted the following dispatch, dated January 2, 1864, from the Associated Press:

Years ago had any colored man presented himself at the White House, at the President’s levee, seeking an introduction to the Chief Magistrate of the nation, he would, in all probability, have been roughly handled for his impudence. Yesterday four colored men, of genteel exterior and with the manners of gentlemen, joined in the throng that crowded the Executive mansion, and were presented to the President of the United States.

Lincoln’s final New Year’s Day reception was described in the New York Timesof January 4, 1865:

The gala event of our New Year’s celebration was the annual reception of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. The White House was thrown open at 12 o’clock, and the Cabinet Ministers, the Diplomatic Corps, the Judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Claims, and the army and navy officers, paid, in the order of precedence, the compliments of the season to the President and his wife.

At 1 o’clock the citizens at large were presented. The Marine Band during the hours of reception discoursed excellent music, and the whole affair passed off with brilliancy, no less than five thousand people having gained admittance to the reception.

The President was in the best of spirits, and received the greetings of his friends in the most genial manner.

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President and First Lady Lincoln

The New Year’s Day receptions continued for decades after Lincoln’s time. In the years before White House Christmas trees became the focus of holiday entertaining, the visit to the president’s house on the first day of the year was the beginning of the social season in Washington.

 

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President and Mrs. Coolidge 1927. Military and Naval Aides assisting.

 

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T. Roosevelt
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Line of well wishers for the handshake

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the White House Historical Society for the information and photos.

To learn more about me, here are a few links.  Barb’s Books  Goodreads Twitter

Twas the Night Before Christmas

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Clement C Moore is generally considered the author of the beloved poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. He was born July 15, 1779 in Queens, New York, and he lived until July 10, 1863. He was a professor at Columbia University.

From 1840 to 1850, he was a board member of the New York Institution for the Blind. He published a collection of poems(1844). On November 29, 1899, his body was reinterred Trinity Church Cemetery in New York.

The poem, “arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American”,was first published in the Troy, New York, Sentinelon December 23, 1823, and was reprinted frequently thereafter with no name attached. Moore later acknowledged authorship and the poem was included in an 1844 anthology of his works at the insistence of his children, for whom he wrote it.

A Visit from St. Nicholasis largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus and the eight reindeer, including their names and Santa’s physical description and costume.

Since 1911 the Church of the Intercession in Manhattan has held a service that includes the reading of the poem followed by a procession to the tomb of Clement Clarke Moore at Trinity Cemetery the Sunday before Christmas.

My husband read this every Christmas Eve to our boys, and they’ve read it to our grandchildren. This has to be my favorite Yuletide poem. What’s yours? I bet the First Families read this to their children, also.

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I love this poem, and hope that you do too.

Many thanks to: http://www.nightbeforechristmas.biz/gallery.htm

You can read more about me at: Barb’s Books Goodreads Twitter

Sankta Lucia! Saint Lucy.

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Alongside Midsummer, the Lucia celebrations represent one of the foremost cultural traditions in Sweden, with their clear reference to life in the peasant communities of old: darkness and light, cold and warmth.

Lucia is an ancient mythical figure with an abiding role as a bearer of light in the dark Swedish winters.

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Feasting and celebrating begin on December 13 with Lucia Day, which legend says is the longest night of the year and a time when man and beast need extra nourishment. A Lucia (Queen of Light) is chosen and is dressed in a white gown with a crown of candles in her hair.  As she enters a room, she carries a tray with coffee, rolls, ginger biscuits, and occasionally “glogg” (a mulled wine).

A train of white-clad attendants or handmaidens accompany her. The girls wear glitter in their hair and carry candles. The star boys, who like the handmaidens are dressed in white gowns, carry stars on sticks and have tall paper cones on their heads. The brownies bring up the rear, carrying small lanterns.

The attendants deliver the food while they sing traditional Lucia carols.

The many Lucia songs all have the same theme:

The night treads heavily
around yards and dwellings
In places unreached by sun,
the shadows brood
Into our dark house she comes,
bearing lighted candles,
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.

What’s your favorite tradition?

Many thanks to http://www.worldholidaytraditions.com

You can learn more about me by visiting my website. Barb’s Books Goodreads Twitter

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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I have always wanted to see the Macy’s Parade from Central Avenue instead I have to tune into the television. Watching the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” is an annual tradition. While most American’s tune in on television, millions even flock to the streets in New York City each year to see the giant floats in person.

The parade started years ago and has been a staple of the Thanksgiving holiday ever since. It was in 1924 that the parade, originally called the “Macy’s Christmas Parade” and started by company employees, first kicked off.

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Rather than using giant floats, live animals from Central Park Zoo were marched through New York City’s streets, a Macy’s history timeline recounts. By 1927, Macy’s was already using floats.

The event became so popular that the company decided to make it an annual tradition. But when war struck in 1942, the parade was put on a hiatus until 1944 due to a national helium shortage. The balloons were donated to the U.S. government at the time to offer up scrap rubber.

When WWII ended, though, the tradition simply grew in popularity, with Macy’s claiming that up to 3.5 million people now arrive in person to see the floats each year, with an additional 50 million watching on their television screens.

 

Relax, and enjoy your family and the parade!

To read about the books I write, here’s the link to my website: Barb’s Books

Haunted Lizzie Borden’s House

Halloween is not Halloween without all the spooks and goblins. Tis the season to discover where to go and spend the night. Doing so, you should be completely scared.

The first place I thought of was the Lizzie Borden house. I didn’t know it was a Bed and Breakfast, which makes it all the more fun.

 

It’s located in the city of Fall River, Massachusetts. When the first Mrs. Borden passed away, Lizzie and her sister became distant from their father. When he remarried, they certainly didn’t care for their stepmother. This brings a whole new meaning to the word, ‘step’. Lizzie was thirty-two years old on August 4, 1892. First she took an axe to the maid, then her father, and lastly her stepmother. However, it wasn’t proven so she was acquitted.

 

Several rumors of seeing the spirit of Lizzie Borden, who died in 1927, have been documented. There are also claims of moving objects.

After the trial, Lizzie and her sister purchased a substantial size house. I think the sister was scared for her life and thought she’d better do exactly what Lizzie wanted.  I bet she didn’t sleep one wink until her death.

If you’re looking for a place to become rightfully spooked on Halloween, this might be the bed and breakfast for you.

 

Source:  http://www.haunted-places-to-go.com/haunted-lizzie-borden.html

Here is a link to my website: Barb’s Books

 

LABOR DAY!!

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Labor Day is on the first Monday of September every year. It was originally organized to celebrate various labor unions’ strengths of and contributions to the United States’ economy.

About Labor Day

The first Labor Day was held in 1882. Its origins stem from the desire of the Central Labor Union to create a holiday for workers. It became a federal holiday in 1894. It was originally intended that the day would be filled with a street parade to allow the public to appreciate the work of the trade and labor organizations. After the parade, a festival was to be held to amuse local workers and their families. In later years, prominent men and women held speeches.This is less common now, but is sometimes seen in election years. One of the reasons for choosing to celebrate this on the first Monday in September, and not on May 1, which is common in the rest of the world, was to add a holiday in the long gap between Independence Day and Thanksgiving.

When I was a kid, we’d pack up and go for a drive up north. Sometimes, we’d visit farm relatives for the three day weekend, but not always. The farm was always fun because my brother and would climb on the haybales or else create havoc while our uncles did the milking. Since we lived in Minneapolis, the farm held much to discover and enjoy.

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However, Mom and Dad loved to fish. We’d load our fishing poles and off we’d go to a small lake north of Minneapolis near McGregor. We had relatives there, too, who had a cabin. That was always fun.

What does your family do for fun? How about visiting a National Park or go for a bike ride? Get out and enjoy the great outdoors and relish in the day. You deserve it!

You could sit outside and read a good book!

 

Here is the link to my website where you can find more good books!  Barb’s Books

August—what to do? Read—that’s what!

Summer keeps us moving and August is a month to celebrate and really enjoy because soon the long, hot days will be cold, long days of winter.

Let’s not think of those cold, north winds and low temperatures. Outdoor activities should be high on the list for things to do, and that includes reading a good book in the sun, near the lake.

August 9 is National Book Lover’s Day.  Here are some things that you can do to celebrate books.

Visit your library.

Buy a book by your favorite author.

Read a book by a new author.

Participate in a book exchange.

Books are always better than the movie.

Travel the world with a book.

So, when you plan your camping trip or other outing, bring a book!

Breathe in the fresh air, and let your imagination go—and enjoy!  You won’t regret it.

 

 

Here is the link to my website:  Barb’s Books