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Islanders excited for return of levees to begin 2023

Kent MacPhee, managing partner of the Olde Dublin Pub in Charlottetown, says staff have been busy preparing to make this levee day a memorable one.  (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News - image credit)
Kent MacPhee, managing partner of the Olde Dublin Pub in Charlottetown, says staff have been busy preparing to make this levee day a memorable one. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News - image credit)

After a two-year hiatus, levee day is finally making a comeback in Prince Edward Island, and Islanders are looking forward to celebrating again.

Kent MacPhee, managing partner of the Olde Dublin Pub in downtown Charlottetown, said the pub is already preparing for levee customers.

"[I] feel very excited about levees returning," he said. "They are synonymous with New Year's and ringing in the new year in Prince Edward Island."

Levees are an annual tradition in Canada that involves travelling from place to place — whether it be local bars, restaurants, town halls or legions — to enjoy refreshments and good company.

"It is a fun time," said MacPhee. "It's very, as we say in the Maritimes, sociable, and there are a lot of sociables," said MacPhee.

Long history of levees

Always held on New Year's Day, levees were originally formal court receptions held by the sovereign and were only for men. But they have become a tradition open to all.

Most levee gatherings were put on hold for the last two years in P.E.I. because of COVID restrictions.

Jamie Trainor, president of the Haviland Club in Charlottetown, said the club has a long history of hosting levees. He said he grew up attending levee day celebrations at the club.

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News

"As long as levees have been happening, they've been happening here at this building," he said.

Trainor said he expects this year's event will be a busy one, as Islanders are looking forward to celebrating after years of managing public health restrictions.

"As much as it's been a negative thing in our lives, the positive thing about it, it's brought people together," he said. "People want to get out and they want to greet other people and have some fun again."

A levee for everyone

Other community organizations are preparing for the return of the levee celebration as well.

Myrtle Jenkins-Smith, executive director for the department of development and alumni relations at the University of Prince Edward Island, said the school is preparing for a large event, complete with food, drink and alumni swag.

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News

Jenkins-Smith, who has been doing levees for more than 40 years, has a personal affinity for levee day.

"I would say it's one of my most favourite days of the whole year," she said.

A group that calls itself the "secret levee society" is planning to mark the occasion. It has rented a bus and will be travelling between events.

Alana Sprague is a member of the group.

"I love my birthday and Halloween and Christmas, but there are certain days of the year that I say are my favourite days, and levee day is right up there," she said.

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News

MacPhee has a piece of advice for anyone who is undecided about attending a levee.

"I say consider no more, go, you're not going to regret it," he said. "I don't think I've ever seen anyone at a levee that wasn't thrilled to be there."