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Party Like it's 1870

Many of you are probably preparing for New Year’s celebrations. Maybe you’re hosting a party or going downtown for the Bash on Broadway. Maybe like me you’ll go to bed early because you can’t stay up until midnight, but won’t fall asleep until 2AM because everyone else is shooting off fireworks. But thinking about this New Year’s got me wondering, how did Adelicia celebrate the New Year?

Unlike today, it appears many New Year’s celebrations in the 19th century happened on New Year’s Day and involved making calls at friends’ houses and being served wine and cake. According to an article published in Memphis Daily Appeal on Jan. 2, 1876 “New Year’s day in this city was uncommonly dull, as respects business…. In a social respect, however, the citizens had no cause of complaint, as New Year’s calls were very generally indulged in… callers were very much elated by the fair afternoon and moonlight night.”

From what we know of Adelicia, she often participated in such festivities. In 1868, Adelicia sent handsome bouquets to the home of Rev. R. F. Buntin for his New Year’s Day party. (Rev. Buntin was the pastor at First Presbyterian Church which Adelicia attended and the flowers probably came out of her greenhouse, see images above). Adelicia hosts her own open house in 1876, but in later years (1882 and 1884) she assists friends with their parties instead. Such open houses could last anywhere from 2 PM to Midnight. (Interestingly, the paper reported that in 1882, New Year’s Day celebrations happened on January 2nd because the New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday).

According to The Home Journal in Winchester Tennessee, building relationships was an important part of New Year’s celebrations. The paper wrote that in 1876, “Old friendships were made stronger, recent acquaintance deepened into genuine regard, and in more than one instance, we have reason to know, those whom circumstances had estranged became reconciled to one another.”

We wish you and yours a happy New Year. And as the Memphis Daily Appeal observed “May the morn, noon and evening of” 2016 “be both fair and bright.”

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