In all the science fiction I’ve read I can remember only one story that mentioned a new years eve party. The story called it a year end day party, but that’s a different blog post.
If you’re looking for a story idea for your steampunk book then mention a new years eve party. No one else has. Better yet make it a central part of the story. The world is going to be destroyed by the villain at midnight new years eve. Or at least he’ll blow up the city, town, castle, laboratory, or airship.
Does the lack of steampunk stories mentioning new years eve parties mean that there weren’t any parties. No, there were New Year Eve’s parties in the 1890s, but they were different. In the 1890s family were bigger and a more important part of life. Children were a source of income for the family. There are many real life stories of boys who had to drop out of school and work to support the family when the father died.
Children were also the retirement plan for many. You supported the children as they grew up, they supported you when you could no longer work. Many families had grand parents living with them and they helped in any way they could.
Being a single woman in the 1890s was a drag. If you had money and went to a party you had to have a chaperone. The host would not let you in if you did not. An unmarried lady without a chaperone would bring shame on the host if he let such a woman in.
Married women and men wore black clothes, it was being much easier to see than a ring on a finger under a glove, and if they were of German heritage they wore a frown. Only unmarried children could wear colored clothing. Bright colored clothing was becoming common as modern production and dyes came into use. Remember flour sacks were printed in bright patterns to entice women to buy their flour because the manufacturers knew that the women made clothes out of the sacks.
Rich people did have parties. They had people to take care of the children. The parties were small. By today’s standards they were tiny. Mostly a dance. Of course there was drinking, but there was also chaperones and gossip to keep the drinking from getting out of hand.
The common people had to work the next day. Remember they worked six days a week. The rich did not get rich by giving the workers days off. Besides it was tradition.
There were no big party in times square until 1903 and they did not drop the ball until 1907.
A farmer had it even rougher. The cows have to be milked seven days a week. The animals have to be feed, morning and evening seven days a week. Wood had to be chopped or food could not be cooked. Water had to be hauled. The evening entertainment would often be reading from the bible or news paper, the family playing musical interments. There was no TV, radio, or iPods.
There was loneliness. Heart breaking loneliness.
The above are all reason your heroine would want to break the cycle work and loneliness. The chance to make the world a better place could drive many different types to step over the bounds of society.
Where are the stories of the mechanical farm hand? The self driving plow? These things, even if they were simpler than what we have now could make life so much better than it was.
I saw an early horse drawn mechanical planter. A framer or boy would sit on this seat, inches away form the ground. He would place a seedling in the mechanical planter. This was very high tech. Each part on the planter had a number molded/cast into it. If a part broke you could mail or telegraph the maker and he would send the part out. Sometimes by rider on horse back. Planting could not wait. It might not be over night express, but have you ever seen a story where parts where gotten to the person who needed it in a hurry. They did not have warehouses all over the country to hold parts (it would be considered a waste of money). But the manufacturers knew that if they got the repair part to the farmer in time the word would get around and they would sell more equipment. Put something like that in your story.
Recipes Black Eyed Peas and Corn Bread
I don’t know where the tradition for having Black Eyed Peas and Corn Bread on New Years day came from, but mother was from Oklahoma and Dad was from Texas.
1/3 cup of milk
1 box of mix
Read and follow directions on box. Bake and enjoy. It’s good with a little butter. I like the plain mix. The stuff with honey in it is OK for every once and a while, but the plain stuff is a great way to start the new year.
Black Eyed Peas
1 can of black eyed peas
Open can and dump in pot. Heat and eat.
It’s good and it’s close to magic.
Stay strong, write on. And you don’t have to make all traditions from scratch.
Professor Hyram Voltage