New Year brings with it new resolutions and rewards. It is both a time of celebration and a time for reflection. Tradition is still followed in 2007 as it was back in 1861 when The Star reported that ‘Another year has rolled down the tide of time, and the first day of 1861 was ushered in with all the bustle and characteristics which usually distinguish the Anglo-Saxon race’.
In keeping with tradition all the shops in 1861 were closed ‘except for a few skinflints’ who kept open doors but however, realised little profits ‘as the visits of customers were like angels’ visits, few and far between’. The Star reported that ‘behind the counters of these might be seen more than one unfortunate assistant with woeful countenance, and a heart big with grief’, observing the crowds outside enjoying the holiday. The banks and public offices were all closed and notices posted on their doors telling respective customers when they would resume business.
Some folk went ‘to the cooling waters of Lake Burrumbeet, or the more romantic district of the Lal Lal Falls, where they picnic’d it, and sauntered quietly amid the solitude’. A well attended cricket match was played between the Ballarat and Little Bendigo Clubs. The Wesleyan Schools organised their youth who marched in procession from the school house in Lydiard Street to the Swamp, where they amused themselves all day.
One of the main attractions on New Year’s Day in 1861 was the Caledonian Gathering held at Boyd’s Copenhagen grounds. It was a great success, the ‘holiday folk were attracted to the spot in thousands’ clad ‘in all the diverse costumes which Australian holiday folk are wont to display’. Early in the morning phaetons, cabs, and people on foot were proceeding westward. The procession of the Caledonian Society marched to the ground also, accompanied by the sound of bagpipes and the Western Fire Brigade band.
The Star reported that ‘The arena had been enlarged and substantially guarded with a fence, the grand stand had been covered in with a shingle roof and boarded at the back and sides, and convenient refreshment rooms were provided for ladies’. An ample number of booths were provided which supplied ‘all kinds of provender’. The grandstand itself ‘was gaily decorated with rosettes and scrolls of many colored ribbons and over the front floated the flag of Scotland, supported on the right and left by the Union Jack and American ensign. In the centre of the large arena were displayed a number of flags streaming down on two sides from the apex of a lofty flagstaff, the various colors and shapes of the bannerets adding a pleasant vivacity to the scene. Close underneath was the platform on which the dances and sword exercises were performed, and near to which a large number of the other sports came off’. It was reported that ten to twelve thousand attended and ‘the whole affair was a complete success’.