Saanich is forgoing the traditional New Year’s levee this year in the hope of making a splash at Saanich Commonwealth Place.
“We’re going to try a new tradition,” said Mayor Frank Leonard.
The municipality’s new take on the levee includes a free swim from 10 a.m. to noon on Jan. 1 at Commonwealth pool. Refreshments will be served.
The capital region has long embraced the tradition of levees, with many military messes and municipal halls, as well as Government House, opening their doors on New Year’s Day.
This year, Saanich challenged staff to come up with a different idea.
“The hope is we reach more people and a whole bunch of new people,” Leonard said, noting that everyone — not just families — is welcome.
If successful, the idea might be expanded.
“My hope is this turns into such a success that we expand it into other rec centres next year,” Leonard said. “It would be nice if we could offer a free family skate at Pearkes and a swim at Gordon Head.”
Saanich is not alone in following a different path.
Oak Bay is inviting residents to join Mayor Nils Jensen and councillors at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre at 12:30 p.m. for a New Year’s walk. A reception and council meet-and-greet will be held at the rec centre at 1:30 p.m., with sports activities to follow.
Leonard recalled how residents lined up out the door for an opportunity to shake hands and share in some New Year’s cheer — of both the alcoholic and non-alcholic variety —with local officials at levees 20 years ago. Alcohol has become much less prevalent at most levees, and attendance has waned.
In Greater Victoria, the municipalities of Esquimalt, Langford, North Saanich, Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria have traditionally held levees on New Year’s Day. The Canadian Armed Forces has a long history of hosting the events, too — levees began at CFB Esquimalt in the 1840s.
The term “levee,” from the French se lever (to rise), represents the practice of rising early on New Year’s Day to pay respect to the monarch or local governor.
The first recorded levee in Canada was held in 1646. Citizens would be informed of significant events that had taken place in the past year in the colonies and in France. The tradition continues with governors general and lieutenant-governors, including B.C. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, who will receive guests at Government House.
GREATER VICTORIA LEVEES
Levees scheduled for New Year’s Day include:
• HMCS Malahat
20 Huron St.
• Muncipality of Saanich
Saanich Commonwealth Place,
4636 Elk Lake Dr.
10 a.m. -noon
• Bay Street Armoury
715 Bay St.
• Government House
1401 Rockland Ave.
• District of Sooke
Municipal hall, 2205 Otter Point Rd.
• Lt.-Gen. E.C. Ashton Armoury
724 Vanalman Ave.
• Maritime Museum of B.C.
28 Bastion Sq.
11 a.m.-4 p.m.
• Royal Canadian Legion Branch 91
761 Station Rd., Langford
11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
• City of Victoria
City hall, 1 Centennial Sq.
• District of Oak Bay
Oak Bay Recreation Centre, 1975 Bee St.
• Township of Esquimalt
Municipal hall, 1229 Esquimalt Rd.
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