Happy Hobbit Day, everyone!
Today, September the 22nd, marks the annual event known as International Hobbit Day. Falling at the end of “Tolkien Week,” where fans of fantasy forefather JRR Tolkien celebrate his life and works, Hobbit Day is the Birthday Party to end all birthday parties, a celebration of all things Tolkien and Lord of the Rings.
According to the American Tolkien Society:
Hobbit Day, on the other hand, is scheduled to fall on Bilbo’s and Frodo’s mutual birthday, the date of the Long Awaited Party (translated in text by Tolkien as September 22). This is perhaps the oldest festal observance associated with Tolkien fandom. Celebration actually predates the formal designation of the holiday. A variety of names have been applied to the date and the celebrations.
In large part, Hobbit Day is usually taken up with the fun activities – the feasts, games, costume events, fireworks and the like. Hobbit Day is a virtually ideal holiday, incorporating attractive elements of several others: the masquerade fun of Halloween, the feast of Thanksgiving, the exchange of greeting cards and gifts associated with Christmas and birthdays, the picnic atmosphere of Labor Day and Memorial Day, the fireworks of Independence Day (or Guy Fawkes Day)… and the study and reflection associated with many commemorative days throughout the year.
Every year, Tolkien fans around the world celebrate the holiday with any number of events and activities. And as they say, the options are truly endless!
A Bit of Hobbity History
The Hobbit was published exactly 77 years ago, yesterday. The year was 1937, the world was plunging toward a second massive War, and stories for children were still (relatively) few and far between. Then a new story hit the bookshelves and the world soon learned that “In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit.”
I first encountered The Hobbit many decades ago, when I was eleven. My own world was changing as I was moving quickly toward middle school (finishing primary or elementary, depending on where you live) and bored with the chapter books I’d been reading up to that point. On the tall bookshelf in my parents’ room, I found some yellowed, 1970s editions of these odd books, the first of which was missing half of its cover but which seemed to have a person riding on a barrel down a river under some trees. I was intrigued.
Over the school Christmas holidays, I devoured that book, and all of Lord of the Rings, and then read them all again and again. Three times in two weeks. The last line of The Two Towers is etched permanently in my mind, as I remember reading it and then literally flinging the book across the room to run to the shelf for Return of the King: “Frodo was alive but taken by the enemy.”
That was 1993. There was no Peter Jackson trilogy. No Hobbit trilogy. I didn’t know about all of the supplemental material (imagine my delight at discovering The Silmarillion in ninth grade, four years later!). I didn’t know a single other person besides my mother who had read Lord of the Rings. And yet, I was obsessed. September 22nd became almost like a secret byword, a day I mentally noted but didn’t connect to anyone else.
And then, the Internet
Fast forward to my sophomore year of high school. I was sixteen and the rumor mill had confirmed that there were going to be movies. Suddenly people I knew were reading the books! This was around the time that the internet first became more common, and I discovered that there were thousands (if not millions) of people worldwide who were just as obsessed with the books as me. And I found the Tolkien Society. It opened my whole world, and was the fandom that first brought me into Geek World.
While most of my friends back then still thought I was “quirky” (at best) for wishing them a Happy Hobbit Day every year, I have happily celebrated International Hobbit Day ever since. At first, that usually meant an annual re-reading that began in September and lasted however long it took me to finish, sometimes a few days and sometimes not until winter break from school. I searched for Lord of the Rings shirts or jewelry, but there wasn’t much to find back then. Instead I obsessed over the websites with elvish translations, had a rune chart tacked to my wall, all sorts of things. As I got older, I started hosting friends for a Birthday Party, complete with cake and a homemade meal.
Today, of course, things are much different. You can find all sorts of ways to celebrate online, and local groups of Tolkien fans. Whether you loved the movies or were beyond frustrated with them (I’m hanging out right in the middle on that one, personally), it’s good to know that so many people have read the books now because of them, and that I don’t have to explain anymore when I say the word “Hobbit” in casual conversation.
Want to Celebrate?
So here are some ideas to get you started on your Hobbit Day celebration. It’s as easy as raising a glass of your beverage of choice and drinking to the health of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Huzzah!
Hosting a dinner party is always fun, and very much in the spirit of the Bagginses’ own celebrations. Whether it’s a single guest or one hundred and forty-four, sharing a meal with friends is a great way to celebrate anything. Be sure to include a birthday cake. If you want to browse some Middle-earth recipes, check out this cookbook!
An all-day movie marathon of the Lord of the Rings movies is another way to go (though maybe have it on the weekend so your guests aren’t all calling off of work today). NPR’s Beth Accomando has a full day’s itinerary, including when to serve second breakfast and elevenses, and suggested recipes.
Maybe a masquerade is more your speed? Get together with your local LARP chapter (or find some friendly renaissance festival folks) and have a Middle-earth inspired costume party! It’s always fun to break out the garb in the “off season” and I know I’m always looking for an excuse to wear my favorite medieval dress.
Hobbit tradition dictates that the birthday-haver gives gifts instead of receiving them, so you could spend the day spreading cheer to your friends and loved ones. Hobbits often give away mathoms, things for which they had no use but couldn’t throw away. Get together with your friends and have a Mathom Party, or simply donate your mathoms to a local charity that could put them to good use.
Personally this year I’m heading to my favorite local pub with some friends where we can have good food and live music and generally enjoy being together and breaking bread. And isn’t that the spirit of the Birthday Party anyway?
Are you celebrating Hobbit Day? Let me know in the comments below!