History of the Holiday Reception

The commander’s New Year’s Day Reception had its beginning in France with King Louis XIV. The tradition then crossed the English Channel in the 18th century and became a formal court assembly or reception.

In the United States, George Washington held the first New Year’s Reception and it was considered a very formal affair. Foreign diplomats, the diplomatic corps, the Judiciary, the Congress, the Army and Navy, and representatives from different departments attended the event. This was the beginning of the social season in Washington.

Thomas Jefferson began the tradition of shaking hands with each and every visitor as part of the New Year’s reception. Anyone could wait in line, enter the White House, and shake hands with the President. This was the beginning of the receiving lines that we now participate in as part of formal events.

The tradition of New Year's reception continues today in the United States Army but varies depending on the hosting Commander. Some Commanders opt for the traditional New Year’s day reception while others host a holiday reception instead. The formality of the event also depends on the Commander and their spouse. Because this is considered a formal function, a hostess gift is not required, but a thank you note is always nice. The reception tradition is a wonderful opportunity for you to spend time with other spouses and their Soldiers, and enjoy the hospitality of the Commander and their family.

We hope if you are heading to a holiday or New Year’s reception that you enjoy this yearly tradition. We would love to hear about any other military traditions that you participate in during the holidays.