New Year’s Eve was celebrated on 31 December for the first time in 45 B.C. when the Julian calendar came into effect.
New Year’s Eve in the 19th Century was as jolly and booze-fueled as it is in the 21st. Here, Baby New Year 1838, the first born of the reign of young Queen Victoria, enters stage right as the black-draped old woman of 1837 departs stage left, taking with her the Georgian Era.
This New Year’s Eve party had it goin’ on. Conga lines—usually drunken Conga lines—became popular in the 1930s and remained so right through the 1950s. The Conga was originally a Cuban Carnival dance.
Nothing says Swinging ’60s New Year’s Eve like bullet-bra and hot-pants-wearing go-go dancers workin’ it in a giant glass of champagne.
And nothing says white middle-class respectability like a well-coiffed matron swilling champagne from a bottle whilst standing under a crucifix. Kodachrome, circa 1958.
No one did parties like Edwardians did parties and Edwardians did party hardy. This photo preserves one New Year’s Eve during the Gilded Age, circa 1905.
A high-frolic and uber-booze New Year’s Eve sometime in the late 1940s.
Meanwhile, in New York’s Time Square, cone-hat wearing paper-horn blowers signaled midnight.
The origins of Baby New Year go back as far as the ancient Greeks, but the rather unfortunate personifications at parties began when the Saturday Evening Post published Baby New Year covers. This diapered gentlemen attempted to be the life of the party on New Year’s Eve 1954.
Some sincerely spooky Mummers paraded through Philadelphia on a cold New Year’s Day, 1909. Real photo postcard.
Times Square packed with crowds in 1954. Celebrations had occurred there as early as 1904. The ball dropping tradition began two years later, in 1906.
These swingers celebrated New Year’s Eve in a hot tub during the mid 1970s.
No one did parties like Edwardians did parties and Edwardians did party hardy, redux. This jovial crowd assembled at Restaurant Martin on New Year’s Eve 1906.
This woman poured champagne for her besties whilst standing on the dining room table. As one does. Circa 1930.
Whoopin’ it up with the grandparents. Kodachrome slide, circa 1960.
Dude in the front row was cut off immediately after this picture was taken. Kodchrome slide, mid-1950s.
Happy New Year, Gentle Readers. Thank you for following me on this journey this far. Leave a comment, if you can. It is always deeply appreciated. And heed Benjamin Franklin, who advised, “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”
Snow banks on U.S. Route 40 at Keysers Ridge, Garrett County, Maryland, circa 1925. Real photo postcard.
“Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!”
Electric trollies navigate the snow-jammed streets of a U.S. city, probably Seattle, Washington, during the enormous snows of 1916. Real photo postcard.
“It doesn’t show signs of stopping
And I’ve bought some corn for popping
The lights are turned way down low
Let it snow! Let It snow! Let it snow!”
My paternal grandfather James Albert Longmore shovels out after a winter storm in Camden, New Jersey, during the late 1930s.
“When we finally kiss good night
How I’ll hate going out in the storm!
But if you’ll really hold me tight
All the way home I’ll be warm…”
My mother Sally Garnand Longmore outside our home in Linette Lane, Annandale, Virginia, circa 1980.
“The fire is slowly dying
And, my dear, we’re still goodbying
But as long as you love me so
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!” Ω
Snow-covered trees somewhere in the Western United States. Postcard by William P. Sanborn, circa 1940.
Words: Sammy Cahn; Images: Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.