As with any holiday, we here at Lucky Shot are thinking about our troops and New Year’s Day is no exception. While we are ringing in the New Year, we will also be thinking of all military service members and wishing the very best for them in the coming year. Did you know that the United States Army has long had a New Year’s tradition that dates all the way back to George Washington?
The annual New Year’s Reception is one of the oldest military traditions and evolved from a custom that started when Army installations were remote outposts and social events were few and far between. The commanding officer would host a reception at his quarters on New Year’s Day, which was the foremost social event of the year. The first New Year’s Reception was held by none other than George Washington, United States President and Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. The event was considered a very formal affair and was attended by foreign diplomats, the diplomatic corps, the Judiciary, the Congress, and of course the Army and Navy. The reception marked the beginning of the social season.
John Adams was the first President to reside in the White House. He believed it was the people’s house and felt compelled to extend hospitality to the people. He did this by welcoming anyone and everyone who wished to come by, shaking his hand, and exchanging pleasantries. Thomas Jefferson began the tradition of shaking hands with every single visitor who attended the New Year’s Reception. Any person so inclined could wait in line to enter the White House and shake hands with the President; this marked the beginning of the receiving lines that are now part of formal events. A notable New Year’s Day reception was held by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. After shaking hands with a large number of visitors, he was concerned that he would not be able to sign the Emancipation Proclamation properly, but his writing hand held out and he signed the document on New Year’s Day. The final Reception at the White House was held in 1932 by Herbert Hoover.
For more than 100 years subsequent to the first formal New Year’s Day Reception, military custom called for soldiers to travel to their commanding officer’s headquarters to greet their commander at the beginning of the year. The New Year’s Reception could constitute the only time during the year when commanders were able to lay eyes on their soldiers; this was particularly true for Horse Cavalry in the American West after the Civil War. The reception would include a formal receiving line where the commander and his spouse would greet all attendees including troops, senior leaders, and members of the communities. Commanding officers typically hosted the receptions in their homes.
More modern New Year’s Day Receptions bring the holiday season to a close and welcome the start of the new year. The events are hosted by the unit commander and are typically formal daytime events scheduled on a weekend. Because most battalions are too large to have everyone attend at one time, the invitation will specify a timeframe to arrive and depart for each company, battery, or troop. Attendance is highly encouraged and the reception is a chance to socialize with the command team in a more comfortable setting. It is also a chance for military spouses to connect with each other. Service members wear their Army Service Uniform/Dress Blues and spouses wear cocktail attire. Upon arrival, attendees are met with a receiving line at the door consisting of the commander and their spouse, and often the command sergeant major and their spouse as well. Appetizers and desserts as well as wine, coffee, tea, and punch are served. The hosting commanding officer will greet the group with a short speech shortly after everyone has arrived. At the conclusion of the scheduled time, the host will offer a few parting words; this indicates that it is time to depart so that everything can be reset for the next group.
While in recent years, the Army has held fewer New Year’s Day Receptions because of other commitments that invitees may have, nearly every U.S. Army installation worldwide has a special event to wish Happy New Year to the military and their neighboring civilian communities. From everyone here at Lucky Shot, we’d like to wish you a Happy New Year and we extend that wish to all our troops, regardless of where in the world (and what time) they start the New Year.