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New Year's Calls, by Clement Chase

Clement C. Chase, pioneer Omaha resident and longtime editor of the Omaha Excelsior, on September 30, 1916, published in the Excelsior his recollections of early Omaha. Chase had particularly fond memories of the holidays:

"The holidays were always full of joy for the younger crowd and Christmas was celebrated in good old-fashioned style. The Christmas trees of those days seemed bigger and more real than any I have seen since and the carols sung at the churches had a ring to them that echoes down the years.

"New Year's quickly followed and the boys imitated their elders in the matter of New Year's calls, starting out shortly after noon and visiting from house to house in little groups until the shades of evening fell. They carried with them printed cards, frequently of grotesque design, fashioned after those of their fathers. A large part of the enjoyment of the afternoon was found in passing out these bits of cardboard to the matrons who so graciously received them, and to the girls who fluttered in the background.

"Refreshments went with gusto at the beginning of the festivities, but by four o'clock in the afternoon 'there was no room left.' The most tempting sandwiches, the daintiest macaroons, the crispest of 'lady fingers' failed to tempt sagging appetites. The papers on New Year's morning always published the list of houses that would be 'open' and those who would assist in receiving at each place and this list was taken along and checked off by the callers.

"The men went around in closed carriages from the livery stables or sometimes in sleighs if the sleighing were good, when the jangle of the sleigh bells lent a festive note to their journeyings. Liquid refreshments were served as a matter of course in almost every residence and the results toward evening were occasionally disastrous."

That Chase was not entirely fond of social calling is revealed by his subsequent observation that calling was "a custom which was punctiliously observed and calling lists kept up with exactness, a routine that has passed away and perhaps should not be regretted."

(December 2004)



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