(Many of you may be planning on attending a New Year Levee put on by the Governor General, Lieutenant Governor, Local Garrison Commander or your Mayor. In any event a quick review of the contents below will better arm you with some background on this popular event. CAPER)

Pipe in the Lt Governor – WEST COAST

The annual New Year’s Day Levée, is traditionally hosted by the Governor General, the Lieutenant Governor, military establishments, municipalities and other institutions, and has an unusual and interesting origin.

The word Levée is derived from the French verb lever — to rise (specifically from one’s bed) — and has its origins in the Levée du Soleil or Rising of the Sun instituted by King Louis XIV (1643–1715) whose custom it was to receive his male subjects in the Royal bedchamber just after arising, a practice which subsequently spread throughout Europe.
The Levée crossed the English Channel in the 18th Century, and in Great Britain and Ireland became a formal Court assembly (reception) given by the Sovereign or his/her representative in the forenoon or early afternoon, at which only men were received.
In the New World colonies, the Levée was held by the Governor acting on behalf of the Monarch. Because settlers were widely scattered, and separated from the seat of Government, the annual Levée was a very important event, and attendance by village leaders and public dignitaries was compulsory.

It was in Canada that the Levée became associated with New Year’s Day. The holding of a Levée by the Governor General and Lieutenant-Governors on New Year’s Day is not a continuation of the precedent set by the Sovereign they represent, but rather perpetuates an ancient custom of this country, dating from the days of the fur trade. The people of the trade traditionally paid their respects to their representative of government — the Master of the Fort — on New Year’s Day.

The first recorded Levée in Canada was held on January 1st, 1646 in the Chateau St. Louis by Charles Huault de Montmagny, Governor of New France (later Québec) from 1636 to 1648. In addition to shaking hands and wishing a Happy New Year to citizens presenting themselves at the Chateau, the Governor informed guests of significant events in the Mother Country, as well as the state of affairs within the colony. (This tradition is carried on today within The Commonwealth in the form of The Queen’s New Year’s Message. The State-of-the-Union address by the President of the United States, although not delivered on New Year’s Day, has similar origins.) In turn, the settlers were expected to pledge anew their allegiance to the Crown.

The Levée tradition was continued by British Colonial Governors in Canada, and subsequently by Governors General and Lieutenant-Governors, and continues to the present day.

Records suggest that only after British Columbia entered Confederation in 1871 were Levées regularly held by the Lieutenant-Governor of the Province, and that Colonial Governors of Vancouver and (Mainland) British Columbia did not customarily hold them on New Year’s Day. The (Victoria) Colonist of January 3rd, 1872 reported that “… His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor (Sir Joseph J.W. Trutch) and family received and entertained many callers at their private residence”. Subsequent Levées were held, for the most part, in Government House.

Although receptions hosted by the President of the United States of America are occasionally referred to as Levées, over the years, the Levée has become almost solely a Canadian observance.

Today, the word Levée describes the receptions (usually — but not necessarily — on New Year’s Day) held by the Governor General, the Lieutenant-Governors of the Provinces, the Military, and others, to mark the advent of another year and to provide an opportunity for the public to pay their respects.

The Levée has a long tradition in the Canadian Forces as one of the activities associated with New Year’s Day. In years past, Military Commanders garrisoned throughout the vast expanse of Canada held local Levées since, as Commissioned Officers, they were expected to act on behalf of the Crown on such occasions.

On the West Coast, Levées are a well-established tradition, given that Vancouver Island was the base for the Royal Navy’s Pacific Fleet, beginning in the 1840s.

Today, as in bygone years, members of the various Canadian Forces units and Headquarters across Canada receive and greet visiting military and civilian guests in the convivial spirit of the first day of the new year.

As has the Levée itself, refreshments served at Levées have undergone change — in importance and variety — over the years.

In colonial times, when the formalities of the Levée had been completed, guests were treated to wine and cheeses from the homeland. Wines did not travel well during the long ocean voyage to Canada; so, to make the cloudy and somewhat sour wine more palatable, it was doctored with alcohol and spices, and heated. The concoction came to be known as “Le Sang du Caribou”, or Moose Blood.

Under British Colonial rule, many of the customs of French Canada were retained but, in the case of “Le Sang du Caribou”, whisky, which traveled better, was substituted as the basic ingredient. This was then mixed with goat’s milk, and flavoured with nutmeg and cinnamon to produce an Anglicized version called “Moose Milk”. Today’s version of Moose Milk, in addition to whisky (or rum) and spices, uses a combination of egg-nog and ice-cream and sometimes an additional alcoholic refinement or two.

Refreshments were clearly an important element in the New Year’s festivities. A report of the New Year’s Levée held in Brandon House in Manitoba in 1797 indicated that “… in the morning the Canadians (men of the North West Company) make the House and Yard ring with saluting (the firing of rifles). The House then filled with them when they all got a dram each”. Simpson’s Athabasca Journal reports that on January 1st, 1821, “the Festivities of the New Year commenced at four o’clock this morning when the people honoured me with a salute of fire arms, and in half an hour afterwards the whole Inmates of our Garrison assembled in the hall dressed out in their best clothes, and were regaled in a suitable manner with a few flaggon’s of Rum and some Cakes. A full allowance of Buffalo meat was served out to them and a pint of spirits for each man”.

Place leftovers in a Jug for Later

Indeed, when residents called upon the Governor to pay their respects, they expected party fare. On Vancouver Island, there was “an almighty row” in 1856 when the Colonial Governor’s Levée was not to their liking.

In military messes, hospitality is dispensed in a variety of forms, from the previously-mentioned Moose Milk (with rum often substituted for whisky), and the special flaming punch of the Royal Canadian Hussars of Montreal — a concoction bequeathed to the regiment by the old 1st Motor Machine Gun Brigade, and requiring a month to prepare — to the famed Athole Brose, the brew of oatmeal, honey and whisky of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, Vancouver.

Historically, the Levée has been largely a male preserve having its origins, as previously mentioned, in the Royal bedchamber. This custom persisted, in part, because of societal practices of earlier days, and quite possibly the fact that it was an occasion enlivened by quantities of rum or other spirits, and thus was often a raucous celebration.
During the Second World War, Levées were attended by female officers of the Armed Forces, and since then the “men only” tradition has given way to Levées attended by both men and women.

From the rather boisterous celebrations of early times to the somewhat more sedate, if informal, event of today, the Levée has evolved into an occasion to call upon representatives of the Sovereign, military, and municipal governments, to exchange New Year’s greetings and best wishes for the coming year, and to renew old acquaintances and meet new friends in a convivial atmosphere. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the events of the past year and to welcome in the challenges and opportunities of the New Year.


Navy Moose Milk
This is a tradition of the Canadian Navy. It was basically the last minute findings found in the cooks galley to mix with the leftover alcohol. Mixed in a big batch in the big mixing bowl. Though other branches of the military service (army, air force, RCMP) claims to have the original or best, don’t be fooled! Navy comes out on top!

1 gal. vanilla ice cream
1 pot cold coffee
1/2 gal milk
micky of vodka
micky of dark rum
micky of kaluha
dark chocolate pieces

New Year’s Levee Government House – EAST COAST

MOOSE MILK Warning – Within anything from a few minutes to an hour after imbibing on Moose Milk you will begin to feel the benefits. Initially a mild feeling of euphoria will overtake you as your metabolism increases its efficiency. Within a very short period thereafter, you will note various other benefits including a massive increase in confidence, pride, intelligence and magnetism to the opposite sex. There are only two possible negative side effects and they can be avoided by following these warnings:
1. If you feel the urge to paw the ground and run head long into a member of the opposite sex? Resist.
2. Despite the strong cravings you will undoubtedly feel for more moose milk, under no circumstances should you attempt to milk a moose on your own; this job is strictly for the professionals.
Another recipe:

Army Moose Milk:
40oz Lambs Dark Rum
40oz Kahlua
40oz Vodka
4L Vanilla Ice Cream (the good creamy expensive kind)
4L eggnog

Mix all together, breaking up the ice cream a bit. Sprinkle nutmeg on top if you so desire. Stir occasionally as the ice cream starts to melt. Enjoy!
1.14 lt of Dark Rum
1.14 lt of Kahlua
1.14 lt of Vodka
4 lt of vanilla soft scoop ice cream
4 lt of partly skimmed milk

Mix gently until frothy, leaving a few ice cream chunks.
Liberally sprinkle with Nutmeg on top.

Of course, if you are missing some ingredients, feel free to make a ‘reasonable’ substitution.

I replaced the Dark Rum with Capt Morgan’s Spiced Rum and the Vanilla Ice cream with Cafe-Latte Gelato.
I guess Tia Maria can be substituted for Kahlua…….but I insisted on getting Kahlua so as to stock the bar.

Canadian Air Force:
Messes traditionally serve “Moose Milk” at their New Year’s Levees. This alcoholic concoction contains no moose milk whatsoever. The recipes vary, but tend to include eggs, sugar, maple syrup, cream, or ice cream, and some combination of rye whiskey and rum.
The Official (well…sort of) Recipe for RCAF Moose Milk
Anyways, here’s another Canadian recipe for Moose Milk – metric of course:
*    1 l rum
*    1 l Kahlua
*    1 l vodka
*    3 l vanilla ice cream (softened)
*    3 l 2% milk (just to be diet conscious)
*    chocolate pieces (break up a dark chocolate candy bar or two- this is the added secret moose poop garnish)
*    nutmeg
Stir together, leave in some lumps. Sprinkle nutmeg on top.
You may need to play with the proportions to suit your palate. It does make a lot, but that usually doesn’t seem to be a problem, somehow it gets used up. Can leave you with a bit of a hangover, probably all that milk. Or maybe it’s heading out for spicy food after – been there, done that.
I did find a blender recipe for the solitary drinker – the single moose:
*    1 oz. Dark rum
*    1 oz. White rum
*    0.5 oz. Kahlua
*    2 scoops Ice cream
*    nutmeg
Blend just until smooth, sprinkle with nutmeg. Repeat as needed, but I’m betting that before you know it you’ll have friends over encouraging you to fill the blender to the top and then you start looking for that old punch bowl. For either of these recipes, don’t drink near an open flame, and be careful when standing up suddenly. This tastes best on a cold winter’s day, but also works in warmer climes, to help Canadians brag about how cold it is back home.

Ladies and Gentleman; “The Queen God Bless Her”

(Initiated by Hector MacKinnon – a fellow Cape Bretoner of course – CAPER)

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Edie Wells on December 31, 2010 at 18:45

    Thanks so much for printing the Moose Milk recipes.We enjoyed the annual Levee and Moose milk at the Mess while stationed at St. Margarets,NB. We were telling our children about it and now that we have the recipe will try it tomorrow, the 01,01,2011. Happy New Year!


  2. Posted by Anne (Dugas) Chin on December 31, 2010 at 19:44

    I enjoyed the article on Moose Milk. Every Christmas/NewYear for as long as I can remember my father made Moose Milk. My siblings and I have been trying very hard to remember what ingredients he used. The only thing we know for sure is that he used OP rum. We’ve scoured the internet looking at recipes – none of them seem right and none of these recipes seem right either. I don’t think he used any other alcohol besides the rum. The only thing I know for sure is that it was always very popular with everyone who came to the house. Of course when we were kids at home we weren’t allowed to have any but he would give us a little taste. I still love the flavor of rum but I mostly eat it in the form of Rum Balls rather than drink it. Thanks for the memories.


    • Anne if you dont like the recipies included in the Post and you cant find a suitable one on the internet may I suggest the following. Pour a generous serving of good quality egg nog into a tumbler add a two or two and a half once shot of over proof rum and a shake of nut meg and you will have as smooth a drink as you ever enjoyed. The second one will taste even better – try it. Happy New Year and the best in 2011.


  3. Posted by C. W. Hunt on January 1, 2011 at 17:24

    I was a history teacher and the author of six books on aspects of Canadian history but I did not know the origins of the Levee or that celebrating it on New Year’s day is a Canadian tradition. Thank you very your enlightening article. I will be celebrating it with renewed enthusiasm now that I know all this. We will salute next New Year’s day with one of your MOOSE MILK recipes.



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