Concerning Birthdays, and the Way They Are Celebrated?

It behooves me to take pen in hand and correct a few misperceptions that might be in the minds of readers of that esteemed book, THE HOBBIT. While Professor Tolkien was a brilliant scholar, and a chronicler of grand events that has no peer, he wasn't a hobbit. And he got some things wrong.

First of all, we do not celebrate a birthDAY so much as a birthWEEK.

On the first day of the week a hobbit was born, cards with birthday greetings begin to arrive. It is considered highly impolite not to send cards to anyone that you might speak to at a gathering, or family down to the fourth cousins twice-removed. After that, you need only send greetings to especial favorites.

The closest friends and family of the celebrant spend the second day composing a birthday song for the official party. This can lead to fierce competition, as every hobbit invariably believes they are the best poet in the Shire, and feels that only their lyrics can properly grace the day. Generally, the top five are chosen, and the birthday lad or lass must suffer through them all.

The third day is spent cooking the feast for the actual birthday party, which is to be the next evening. Cakes, sweets, pies, and other victuals are carefully prepared (and surreptitiously tasted) until the cooks are finally satisfied--a process that often runs into the wee hours of the morning.

From the dawn of the BIG DAY until sunset, the Birthday Celebrant is wined and dined, and made much of. They receive visitors all morning and afternoon, and give out many a present. [more on the giving of gifts will follow in a separate monograph]

When the sun sets, the true guests arrive for a huge feast with music and dancing well into the night·and often into the following afternoon. Here the birthday songs are presented, and the Birthday Celebrant applauds them all and declares them all favorites (if he wishes to be polite--some don't.)

The remainder of the birthday week is spent writing Thank You for Coming cards and recovering from the overeating.

An astute reader will see at once that there is a problem here, and will understand why Professor Tolkien truncated the celebration into a single huge party. There are many hobbits in the Shire, and only limited weeks in a year. There are usually three or four birthdays any given "week," so the party is literally endless. Luckily, there are some hobbits who hold no truck with birthdays at all, so the work does still get done, but it is a happy-go-lucky land, our Shire, and if you were to drop by, chances are that you will find yourself in the middle of at least one--if not several--birthday weeks.