A New Year’s Day In New York In 1838


At dawn of day, the whole household is awakened by the merry voices of tho children, who hail the first peep of lio-ht as the signal to steal from their beds, to the chimney where were hung their stockings the previous night. St. Nicholas still watches over the city of New-Amsterdam, although, in consequence of the great degeneracy of its inhabitants, he deigns to visit it only on Chritsmas and New Year’s eves. On these occasions, he fills the stockings of all those who believe in his saintship. It is said that he bestows his bounties on those who are good, and punishes unruly children, by leaving a long switch in their stocking. On this account I think the children of New York must be very superior, for they nearly all receive proofs of the esteem and affection of good St. Nicholas.

The stockings being opened, the shouts of glee and laughter, as the contents are j disclosed, banish sleep from the eyelids of j every member of the house.

Assembled in the breakfast room, “Hap. py New Year!” “Happy New Year!” is echoed from every lip, on every side. Presents are interchanged, kind words spoken, and joy sparkles in every eye. Breakfast is scarcely tasted by any of the younger members of the family, in their eagerness to commence the pleasures of this j day of days. The young ladies and their elder brothers, hastc-n to the toilet, and . each hurries to perform tho operation, in order to be in time to receive and make calls.

And now the business of tho day has j fairly commenced. Happiness is painted on every countenance. Young and old j feel tho influence of the sight and sound of gayety, and each join in the innocent pleasure, which unites in one common bond the two extremes of life. My pen fairly leaps, as it in vain endeavors to record the stirring scenes of the day. Every store


and office is closed to business—every house and heart o|>cn to pleasure. Have you ever passed a New Year’s day in New-1 York? If you have not, perhaps youI would like to accompany mc in my calls. We must start early, and take our list ; containing the names of those we intend visiting, arranged in the most convenient routine of their residences. Many of them, business and other causes have prevented our meeting since last New Year.

The first we call upon, is Miss Newton. She is a pretty affected girl, living in great splendor. The table in the back parlor is loaded with the luxuries of the season— oysters, turkey, wine-;, cordials, coffee, and confectionary, tempt every variety of taste. For this day ‘.he young lady has thrown off her airs, and each guest quits the house resolved to call again.

The next place is old Mrs. Van Pelt’s. The daughters are all married and settled, her husband is dead, yet here sits the old vrow ready to welcome her friends as warmly as in younger and happier years. Her table presents a striking contrast to the preceding one. Here, too, is cake and wine; but in the center stands a large silver urn, containing hot rum, which an old Knickerbocker thinks indispensable in dispensing the hospitalities of New Year’s Day. On a side-table reposes in great state, a large New Year’s cake. Now, if any of my readers are not aware what New Year cookies are, I pity them from my heart. In truth, poor ignorant reader! so much do 1 commiserate you, that I would fain enlighten you upon the subject of New Year cookies, if it were not a very busy day, and I have scarcely time to eat one, much less tell you how thoy arc made.

The next visit is to the bride, Mrs. Charlton. Her house is crowded with visiters, all anxious to wish her a happy New Year.

The next is on the Misses Maxwell’s, who have been on rather cool terms with our family. The gentlemen call, and then they will have no excuse for continuing these distant feelings of friendship. Then follow some dozens more of friends and acquaintances. Night overtakes us still performing duty. Not one gloomy face have we seen this day.

At home, we find a happy group of noighbors assembled, to finish the sports of the day in frolic and social chat. Jokes are cracked by the old folks, and love and

mischief brewed by the young. All part, declaring, as I hope my readers will, that the first day of January in New-York is the happiest day of the year.

A. s. V. v

Source: The Hesperian, 1838


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