CHAPTER XXII. THE HOLIDAYS IN THE CITY.
New York is very careful to observe the holidays, of the year. The mixture of the old Dutch, the orthodox English, and the Puritan elements has tended to preserve, in all its purity, each of the festivals which were so dear to our fathers. The New Yorker celebrates his Thanksgiving with all the fervor of a New Englander, and at the same time keeps his Christmas feast as heartily as his forefathers did, while the New Year is honored by a special observance.
NEW YEAR'S DAY.
New Year's day is one of the institutions of New York. Its observance was instituted by the Dutch, who made it a point never to enter upon the new season with any but the most cheerful spirits. They made it a time for renewing old friendships, and for wishing each other well. Each family was then sure to be at home, and social mirth and enjoyment ruled the hour. Old feuds were forgotten, family breaches were healed, and no one thought of harboring any but kindly feelings for his relatives or friends. The jolly old Knickerbocker sat in the warm light of his huge hearth, and smoked his long pipe in happiness and peace, while his children and children's children made merry round about him.
Subsequent generations have continued to observe the custom, and to-day it is as vigorous and fresh as it was when New Amsterdam was in its primitive glory.
For weeks before the New Year dawns, nearly every house in the city is in a state of confusion. The whole establishment is thoroughly overhauled and cleaned, and neither mistress nor maid have any rest from their labors. The men folks are nuisances at such times, and gradually keep themselves out of the way, lest they should interfere with the cleaning. Persons who contemplate refurnishing their houses, generally wait until near the close of the year before doing so, in order that everything may be new on the great day. Those who cannot refurnish, endeavor to make their establishments look as fresh and new as possible. A general baking, brewing, stewing, broiling, and frying is begun, and the pantries are loaded with good things to eat and to drink.
All the family must have new outfits for the occasion, and tailors and modistes find this a profitable season. To be seen in a dress that has ever been worn before, is considered the height of vulgarity.
The table is set in magnificent style. Elegant china and glassware, and splendid plate, adorn it. It is loaded down with dainties of every description. Wines, lemonades, coffee, brandy, whiskey and punch, are in abundance. Punch is seen in all its glory on this day, and each householder strives to have the best of this article. There are regular punch-makers in the city, who reap a harvest at this time. Their services are engaged long beforehand, and they are kept busy all the morning going from house to house, to make this beverage which is nowhere so palatable as in this city.
Hairdressers, or "artistes in hair," as they call themselves, are also in demand at New Year, for each lady then wishes to have her coiffure as magnificent as possible. This is a day of hard work to theseartistes, and in order to meet all their engagements, they begin their rounds at midnight. They are punctual to the moment, and from that time until noon on New Year's day are busily engaged. Of course those whose heads are dressed at such unseasonable hours cannot think of lying down to sleep, as their "head gear" would be ruined by such a procedure. They are compelled to rest sitting bolt upright, or with their heads resting on a table or the back of a chair.
Sometimes a family desiring to "shine" on such occasions find themselves unable, after meeting the other expenses, to provide the clothing and jewels necessary. These are then hired from modistes and jewelers, proper security being given for their return.
NEW YEAR'S CALLS.
All New York is stirring by eight o'clock. By nine, the streets are filled with gayly dressed persons on their way to make their annual calls. Private carriages, hacks and other vehicles soon appear, filled with persons bent upon similar expeditions. Business is entirely suspended in the city, the day is a legal holiday, and is faithfully observed by all classes. Hack hire is enormous - forty or fifty dollars being the price of a carriage for the day. The cars are crowded, and, if the weather is fine, everybody is in the highest spirits. A stranger is struck with the fact that the crowd in the streets consists almost entirely of men. Women rarely venture out on this day. It is not considered respectable, and, the truth is, it is not safe to do so.