The Shire Calendar

Today’s date in the Shire Calendar:

This page describes the Shire calendar as detailed by Tolkien at the end of The Lord of the Rings.

In recreating this calendar in modern times certain factors have to be considered. The first of these is that the Shire calendar kept its dates on the same day of the week by having a day (or two days in a leap year) that don’t belong to a day of the week. The Gregorian calendar obviously does not do this, so any conversion between dates in the calendars has to take this into account. Thus, whilst we can do a straight conversion of the dates, the day of the week must be either ignored or allowance be made for the fact that the Shire day of the week will be different from ours. I have adopted the latter approach in the calculation of the date shown at the top of this page.

The other factor to be considered is, what date in the Gregorian calendar did it begin on, or indeed did it move about in relation to our calendar, due to being aligned with a solstice? Many of the resources on the internet seem to place the first day of the Hobbits’ year on 22nd December, but depending on the criteria used to relate the Shire calendar to ours, this could actually occur on 21st December, or it could be variable. To resolve this, we can consult Tolkien’s notes at the end of The Return of the King where it clearly states that “it appears that Mid-year’s Day was intended to correspond as nearly as possible to the summer solstice”. One way of doing this would be to make sure that Mid-year’s Day always fell on the solstice, and have all the other dates fall into place around this. However, this produces an irregular pattern of leap years, which it is unlikely that the Hobbits, with their liking for neatness, would have tolerated.

Another method, therefore, would be to align one particular year with Mid-year’s Day falling on the summer solstice, and then simply apply leap years as and when they occur in the equivalent Gregorian year. This is the method described in The Shire Calendar, where the starting point employed is that the Mid-year day of 1955 fell on the summer solstice, which occurred on June 21st of that year. Using this method, Mid-years Day falls on the solstice in roughly 2 out of every 3 years, and this is conversant with the stipulation that Mid-year’s Day should correspond “as nearly as possible” to the summer solstice. And the consequence of using this method is that the first day of the Shire year always falls on December 21st in the Gregorian calendar. In addition to this, if we want to use year numbers, we could use 1955 as Year 1. Thus, at the time of writing (24th December 2011), the date in the Shire calendar would be 3rd Afteryule, Year 58.

This method seems to me to be the most faithful to the Hobbit’s year, where Mid-year’s Day was an important date, probably the most important date in the calendar and therefore this is the method that I will be employing on this site. The following table shows the usual relationship between Shire dates and Gregorian dates in common and leap years.

Shire dates Common years Leap years
2 Yule 21 Dec 21 Dec
1st Afteryule 22 Dec 22 Dec
1st Solmath 21 Jan 21 Jan
1st Rethe 20 Feb 20 Feb
1st Astron 22 Mar 21 Mar
1st Thrimidge 21 Apr 20 Apr
1st Forelithe 21 May 20 May
1 Lithe 20 Jun 19 Jun
Mid-year’s Day 21 Jun 20 Jun
Overlithe 21 Jun
2 Lithe 22 Jun 22 Jun
1st Afterlithe 23 Jun 23 Jun
1st Wedmath 23 Jul 23 Jul
1st Halimath 22 Aug 22 Aug
1st Winterfilth 21 Sep 21 Sep
1st Blotmath 21 Oct 21 Oct
1st Foreyule 20 Nov 20 Nov
1 Yule 20 Dec 20 Dec