A century ago, in the Victorian era, New Year’s day, rather than New Year’s eve, was the time for big celebration and gala entertaining known as open house. It was held from noon until six p.m. The tradition was that all the young ladies and boys under the age of ten would stay at home to receive callers while the eligible gentlemen went out to pay visits.
This tradition was carried by the “well to go” families, which invited eligible bachelors to meet their daughters and served their guests with bourbon, rum, or brandy and egg nog.
To invite their guests, the wealthy Victorians would use calling cards which you can see below. After receiving the engraved invitations, the eligible gentlemen would be arriving in the morning to sample chicken, turkey, fruit pie and to exchange witty repartee with the young lady of the house.
They stayed a rather half and hour and then ambled to another open house to chat with another young woman.The open house was sometimes a competitive event in terms of how many homes could be visited and how many egg nogs could be drunk before the end of the day.
Below is a list of interesting,vintage calling cards that Victorians used to send for New Year. Check them out:
Calling cards became an indispensable tool of etiquette, with sophisticated rules governing their use. The essential convention was that one person would not expect to see another person in his own home (unless invited or introduced) without first leaving his visiting card for the person at his home. Upon leaving the card, he would not expect to be admitted at first, but might receive a card at his own home in response. This would serve as a signal that a personal visit and meeting at home would be welcome. On the other hand, if no card were forthcoming, or if a card were sent in an envelope, a personal visit was thereby discouraged.
As an adoption from French, they were called une carte d’adresse from 1615 to 1800, and then became carte de visite or visiteur with the advent of photography in the mid 19th century. Visiting cards became common amongst the aristocracy of Europe, and also in the United States. The whole procedure depended upon there being servants to open the door and receive the cards and it was, therefore, confined to the social classes which employed servants.