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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Yuletide is upon us...and other calendar questions

Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Dec 19 2019, 5:26am

Post #1 of 17 (1286 views)
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Yuletide is upon us...and other calendar questions Can't Post

To begin with, happy whatever-holiday-you-celebrate! I will say on my part, Merry Christmas to you all!

The December/winter holiday of Christmas has its roots in the ancient concept of Yule/Yuletide (I do believe our Christmas trees bear their roots in old Yule traditions, am I correct in that?) that merged with Christianity long ago to become the Christmas we know of today. That is why Christmas is traditionally celebrated on December 25th, or near the Winter Solstice.

Being the avid Tolkien fan I am, seeing the Shire's date of Yule (December 21st, or the Winter Solstice) approaching in a few days sparked some curiosity on my part as to the days of Yule in Tolkien's world of Middle-earth and other calendar traditions and holidays.Tolkien, in his appendices, gave us a complete breakdown of the Shire Calendar, which sports 12 months consisting of 30 days each, as well as some very specific holiday days that aren't included in said months:

1. 2 Yule, or the first day of the year
2. 1 Lithe, June 21st, or Summer Solstice
3. Midyear's Day, June 22nd
4. Overlithe, June 23
5. 2nd Lithe (only on Leap Year)
6. 1 Yule, December 21st, or Winter Solstice

However, there is a caveat. This calendar is only used in the Shire among hobbits. Tolkien states that dwarves, Men and elves do not use it, and in fact have their own calendars specific to their respective peoples. The only hint we have of theirs is:

The elves may acknowledge Midyear's day (speculative on my part, unconfirmed), and
Durin's Day-the dwarves' last day of autumn and first day of winter when the sun and moon appear in the sky together (apparently a rare event).

Does anyone know if Tolkien ever created a calendar for these respective peoples? And if so, where can I find them? I would be greatly interested to know if more races than just hobbits celebrate Yule, and also what other feast days or other major events/holidays were celebrated in Middle-earth. I do recall that Bilbo and Gandalf are said to have spent Yuletide with Beorn, so...does that mean that Beorn also celebrates this winter solstice holiday?

Any thoughts or answers would be quite appreciated Smile

My writing and novels:

My Hobbit Fanfiction

My historical novel print and kindle version

My historical novels ebook version compatible with all ereaders

You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!


(This post was edited by dernwyn on Dec 19 2019, 2:03pm)


Solicitr
Rohan


Dec 19 2019, 1:55pm

Post #2 of 17 (1229 views)
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While Yule was a Germanic solstice festival, as Eostre was an equinox festival, its coincidence with Christ-mass was, well, a coincidence (more or less). December 25 was chosen because it is 9 months after March 25, the date of Jesus' miraculous conception; and that was chosen because according to very early Xian tradition Jesus was crucified on March 25 (there was long a belief that one's proper death day was one's birthday; cf. Aragorn). And the Crucifixion was tied to Passover, which was an equinox festival....


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 19 2019, 3:04pm

Post #3 of 17 (1224 views)
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Shire Reckoning and Yuletide [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien does state in Appendix D of The Lord of the Rings, "The Calendars", that the Hobbits' Shire calendar is based on the King's Reckoning that was used in Arnor and Gondor, but adapted for their own purposes. The King's Reckoning, in turn, used a lot of the terminology of the Calendar of Imladris.

Tolkien wrote of the Shire Reckoning: "It appears...that Mid-year's Day was intended to correspond as nearly as possible to the summer solstice. In that case the Shire dates were actually in advance of ours by some ten days, and our New Year's Day corresponded more or less to the Shire January 9." The yuletide of the Hobbits began on their 29 January and ended on 2 January, with 1 Yule (the end of the old year) and 2 Yule (the beginning of the new year) falling between the two months. If we assume that Tolkien's conversion is accurate then we could begin the Yuletide celebration on December 20 and it would end on December 25, Christmas Day.

#FidelityToTolkien


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 19 2019, 3:50pm

Post #4 of 17 (1216 views)
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Tolkien's Conversion from Shire Reckoning to the Modern Era [In reply to] Can't Post

I admit that I do not find Tolkien's estimation of our New Year's Day to equate to 9 January in the Shire calendar to be ideal. That places Midyear's Day on our June 23 (and June 24 on a leap year; not as close to the summer solstice as it could be); and neither does the winter solstice fall on either of the Yuledays. On the other hand, this does coincide fairly nicely with many traditional mid-year celebrations, so maybe I shouldn't be too picky about it.

#FidelityToTolkien

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Dec 19 2019, 3:52pm)


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Dec 19 2019, 6:09pm

Post #5 of 17 (1202 views)
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Thanks! [In reply to] Can't Post

So it appears that at least the elves of Imladris may have acknowledged Yule as well. Any idea if the dwarves do too?

My writing and novels:

My Hobbit Fanfiction

My historical novel print and kindle version

My historical novels ebook version compatible with all ereaders

You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!


squire
Half-elven


Dec 19 2019, 9:11pm

Post #6 of 17 (1191 views)
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Appendix D gives a brief description of the Elvish calendar [In reply to] Can't Post

In it we see, in the annual (sun-year) sense rather than the long-years by which they as immortals really reckoned time, a seasonal series of longish months or shortish seasons. As already noted here, the only Elvish calendar Tolkien developed was what he called the Imladris version, reserving the right to work on others should the need arise. In it there are several mid-summer 'middle-days', reckoned outside of the season-months, and these obviously correspond to the Shire's "lithe" days in the same time of year. Then there are also two independent days at the end-beginning of each year - which the Elves celebrated at the start of spring, not in mid-winter.

These two days seem to be the inspirations for the ones called Yule in the Shire, except the hobbits had followed the Numenoreans in modifying the Elvish calendar to 1) set the change of year at mid-winter (a Mannish custom dating to the tribes of the First Age), with the two independent calendar days there after 'December' and before 'January'; and 2) use a twelve-month system much like our real-world one.

There's no suggestion of holidays celebrated by the Elves or Numenoreans during their intercalendrical days at mid-year and end of year, but of course the hobbits did see them that way. Tolkien's naming the mid-winter days 'Yule' evokes the northern European traditions of our real world, just as many other aspects of the Shire do relative to the many other-worldly cultures of Middle-earth.

Tolkien really liked doing calendar math, it becomes clear when one really tries to read Appendix D!



squire online:
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Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Dec 19 2019, 9:16pm

Post #7 of 17 (1186 views)
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Thanks for that squire! [In reply to] Can't Post

I shall have to refamiliarize myself with Appendix D then Smile

Really wish Tolkien had developed dwarf culture more though...I like to think he's still tinkering with his creation up in heaven and chuckling at how badly he's driving all of us fans nuts with the absence of so many details in his works, and the incompleteness of others Tongue

My writing and novels:

My Hobbit Fanfiction

My historical novel print and kindle version

My historical novels ebook version compatible with all ereaders

You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 20 2019, 2:21am

Post #8 of 17 (1162 views)
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There's not much about the Dwarven Calendar. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
So it appears that at least the elves of Imladris may have acknowledged Yule as well. Any idea if the dwarves do too?


From the few clues that Tolkien provides in The Hobbit we can guess that the Dwarves of Erebor might have used a lunar calendar, but we really have little to go on. We can also guess that they might have counted the beginning of November as the start of winter. We know from the conversation on the doorstep between Thorin and Balin that the Durin's Day of T.A. 2941 fell on the first day of the last week of autumn. This was presumably according to the reckoning of the Dwarves of Erebor.

#FidelityToTolkien


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Dec 20 2019, 2:47am

Post #9 of 17 (1160 views)
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Lunar calendar sounds like an excellent possibility! [In reply to] Can't Post

That would presumably mean that dwarf calendars would be based on 13 months, if it's lunar. Good catch!

Yeah, Tolkien created this rich people, but really kept a tight lid on much about their culture just the same. It's quite sad, really.

My writing and novels:

My Hobbit Fanfiction

My historical novel print and kindle version

My historical novels ebook version compatible with all ereaders

You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!


squire
Half-elven


Dec 20 2019, 3:31am

Post #10 of 17 (1156 views)
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I don't think Tolkien kept a 'tight lid' on details of Dwarven culture [In reply to] Can't Post

I think he just wasn't that interested. Any details he invented, we know about, thanks to Christopher's diligent work. Anything we don't know, he didn't know either (more correctly, he didn't care to invent).

One fun thing about Osaku's suggestion that the Dwarves used a lunar calendar is that that provides another parallel with the Jews, a model that Tolkien sometimes embraced on the basis of difference, exclusion, and ghettoization relative to a world of Elves and Men.

But I don't see the existence of "Durin's Day", a moon-based date, as enough to support Osaku's thesis. For one thing, if its calculation was a fundamental part of the Dwarven calendar, it's unlikely that the Dwarves would have forgotten how to calculate it. If it was an inconsequential date, used for mystical spells by a secretive cult of smiths from the House of Durin only, it's more likely to have been forgotten, while the regular calendar ("Hey, what day is it?" "Monday, September the 12th") would have remained in general, and understandable, use.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 20 2019, 3:44am

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...the Dwarves forgetting how to determine the precise date of Durin's Day was always something of a sticking point in The Hobbit. It might work from the perspective of a fairy tale, but it still defies all logic. Squire's explanation is as good as any, though it ignores the fact that Durin's Day was stated to coincide with the first day of the Dwarves' New Year. There should be nothing obscure about that.

#FidelityToTolkien

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Dec 20 2019, 3:52am)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 20 2019, 2:07pm

Post #12 of 17 (1100 views)
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Happy Yuletide (Modern Era)! [In reply to] Can't Post

We've almost reached the winter solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere) so it must be yuletide. December 20 through 25 works for me, as this means that yuletide ends with Christmas.

If you prefer to celebrate the six days of yuletide at the change of the year as was done in the Shire Reckoning: Start yuletide on December 29; observe year's end on December 31 (as we do not use the Hobbits' Yuledays); celebrate the new year on January 1; and end yuletide on January 3. This might be especially preferable for those folks dwelling in the Southern Hemisphere who are observing the summer solstice.

#FidelityToTolkien

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Dec 20 2019, 2:12pm)


Solicitr
Rohan


Dec 20 2019, 4:22pm

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Yebbut [In reply to] Can't Post

traditional RW Yuletide is Dec 25-Jan 6, the Twelve Days.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 20 2019, 4:35pm

Post #14 of 17 (1083 views)
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Outside of Tolkien's usage, I don't think that Yuletide is a term that most modern Americans are familiar with, though of course I do know of the twelve days of Christmas. The more modern version of Yuletide/Christmastide divorces itself somewhat from the observation of the solstice. I see that Christmastide formally begins at sunset on December 24 and ends at sunset on January 5, at least according to Anglican and Lutheran traditions. The Catholic Church has expanded that a bit: "Christmas Time runs from... up to and including the Sunday after Epiphany or after 6 January."

#FidelityToTolkien

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Dec 20 2019, 4:42pm)


uncle Iorlas
Lorien


Dec 20 2019, 7:34pm

Post #15 of 17 (1065 views)
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The real-world holiday season is such a tangled hairball at this point that it's hard to keep track of. I'd heard that the Twelve Days actually began on Dec. 26 (which does result in twelve days). I'm not sure if that was practice back when Christmas was Jan. 6, as many old songs attest, or after it got moved to Dec. 25, which isn't the solstice but is Mithras' birthday, or if it was done that way both before and after. An old scholar of such things around here likes to say that the clash of calendars (solar and lunar, Georgian and Julian) around this time of year was best dealt with by getting drunk for a fortnight. And that is certainly what people did; beginning around what we now call Christmas, they spent the Twelve Days caroling and carousing and mummering and begging alms, and the New Year was the lynchpin of the whole season.

Now of course Christmas starts in late September and people are sick to death of it by midafternoon on Christmas day. There are those who complain of a War on Christmas, but at least where I live, Christmas is out to conquer all the other holidays. Thanksgiving has fallen and Halloween is beseiged. (That line is stolen but I'm not sure from whom, alas.)

As for the observances, there are Celtic bits, Scandinavian ones, bits of Saturnalia and who knows what. The Holly and the Ivy, the Derby Ram, the Cutty Wren, and so on. Even as enduring a song as Deck the Halls is unmarked by any Christian elements at all... and then you add the Christian narrative with its own deep density. Not much about the season is cut and dried at this point.


(This post was edited by uncle Iorlas on Dec 20 2019, 7:35pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Dec 24 2019, 1:11pm

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A merry Christmastide to all, and the appropriate season's greetings to any who do not observe the Christian holidays.

#FidelityToTolkien


Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Dec 24 2019, 5:35pm

Post #17 of 17 (746 views)
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Happy Christmas Eve to you too! [In reply to] Can't Post

I hope your holidays are filled with light, fun, cheer and family Heart

My writing and novels:

My Hobbit Fanfiction

My historical novel print and kindle version

My historical novels ebook version compatible with all ereaders

You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!

 
 

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