This week I’m late because I went to an (online) convention in New Zealand over the weekend, and had meetings most of yesterday and an excellent but long meeting today. Everyone’s trying to get all kinds of things done because it’s a long weekend next weekend. Last weekend was a long weekend in New Zealand, which is why they held the convention.

This is a long weekend that the US is unlikely to ever want to celebrate. How can I say this with such certainty? It’s called the King’s Birthday and for a long time it was called the Queen’s Birthday). It’s the birthday of neither. It’s an ancestral date that was picked to celebrate the birthday of the monarch of the UK and the Commonwealth. The UK celebrates it at a different time of year and, I was told recently, no longer get a day off for it. Australia doesn’t have a date so much as a day: it’s the second Monday in June. Since the date changes, it’s a symbolic birthday, not an actual one.

Mind you, a century and a bit ago migrants who knew their birthday by the Jewish calendar who chose a random date on the secular calendar to celebrate, basically had a mobile birthday. My grandmother had that, and when we finally checked what precise date her birthday was on… her parents got the secular date wrong. From the time she was four, she always celebrated her birthday on a different (but equally wrong date). I told her this when she was … not young, and she told me back that she was old enough to celebrate her birthday whenever she liked.

We stick by The King’s/Queen’s Birthday, not because we’re wildly Royalist, but because winter celebrations are few and far between. It’s cold and it’s dark and we live in Narnia ruled by Jadis. I don’t mind that there’s no Christmas (I’m Jewish, so why should I mind?) but the cold and dark are harder to endure when there are no parties.

After Monday, my life will be cold and partyless. Right now, the days are getting shorter and it’s very tempting to stay in bed.

Think of me as you enjoy summer.

4 thoughts on “Birthdays

  1. I note the timing of the Royal Birthday is close to the Winter solstice in your neck of the woods. One of the advantages of Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere is that it coincides with our winter solstice (not by accident), so in many places — especially in the U.S. — we get a frenzy of parties capped by New Year’s Eve. It occurs to me that it’s important to have parties around the winter solstice. I’d rather have them spread out over the cold dark days into February myself, but holing up is also a good plan. (We actually got winter in Northern California this year, by which I mean we got lots of rain and it was chilly much of the time. Winter here is generally not as oppressive as other places.)

    1. This is where my Jewishness creeps up and makes me ache. For me, over a week away from the winter solstice is not near it at all, and several days after it is not the same as being on the date. I checked up the Christmas one, because I wanted to know where the date came from. Maybe, historically, it was near-but-not-on for a reason? I may never know the reason, but Christmas celebrated on at least 5 different dates. The 25 December (the one that was settled on, finally) came from a particular senior cleric who made it the date for Alexandria, in Egypt. We’d need to demonstrate it coming from solstice celebrations there, then. This makes me happy, even though the question isn’t yet answered in my mind, because I have an ancestress who was buried in Alexandria in the early 20th century. She was one of the many who fled Kishinev because of the problems and because her husband was severely beaten 9to the extent of at least one broken bone) and terrorised during the 1903 pogroms. My great-grandfather and his family took their time and travelled from place to place, trying to find a new home. They began in Cairo, then, I think, Alexandria, then what’s now Israel They finally made it out to Australia, but she didn’t. She died before they found somewhere safe to settle long term. Having once had family in the place that settled on the date for Christmas gives me a certain contentment.

      1. I somehow missed this earlier. I didn’t know it was a cleric in Alexandria that led to the December 25 date for Christmas. Most of the other Christmas dates I’m aware of have more to do with celebrating the arrival of the wise men or kings and seem to still track with the 25th as a birth date, but I have never made a study of it. I have simply noticed that the two most significant Christian holidays were set near significant traditional celebrations around the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

        The holidays in the US during our summer months are secular. We have now added Juneteenth, which is interesting to me as a native Texan since it is tied to the announcement of their freedom to the enslaved people of Texas a year and a half after it was enacted. We now have official US holidays in most months of the year.

        1. There’s a current trend to assume it’s a solstice celebration, and I was trying to find out whether Christmas was set up as that, originally. I doubt it, given the Alexandria provenance, and given Christmas is far enough away from the solstice for discomfort and was decided upon at a time when folks calculated their calendars carefully. A midwinter festival, yes, but not a solstice one – that’s my considered view. I will reconsider if someone gives me more evidence, but so far the main evidence I’ve been give shows that there were several dates originally and that none of those date were the winter solstice.
          I wish the holidays during our summer months were secular. Saying that Christmas is so, does not make it so. Also, telling me (as many do) that this secular nature means that the troubles piled on Jews during that festival (so many that we developed our own indoor grumpiness festival) didn’t happen does not erase them. It’s complicated, and heavy, but important.

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