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To mark the Occasion of one’s Birth, is to mark a very Special day indeed.
For what Reason do Hobbits mark Birthdays? It is said that not all Races do so, or if they do, Mark them but lightly. This is a puzzle, for the Occasion of one’s Birth is a time for showing Gratitude and Thankfulness for one’s life in the World. To share this Gratitude with others, and to make of it a Happy Event is very important. We show this by our Customs and Traditions concerning Birthdays from a very young age.
It has been remarked on Previously, that certain Birthdays are of greater Significance than others: the Third Birthday, in which a child passes from Infancy to Faunthood, the Fifth, in which a Faunt becomes a Child, the Twentieth, in which Childhood is left behind, and the child becomes a Tween, and the Coming of Age, when a Hobbit takes his or her rightful place in the Shire. Other Birthdays of Special Note would be those marking the entry into each New Decade--the Fortieth, Fiftieth, and so forth. And for any Hobbit who has marked his or her One Hundred and Tenth Birthday, every birthday after that would be a Momentous Event, as it could easily be the Last.
I have previously dealt with both the Third and Fifth Birthdays in my discussion of faunts and children, and thus I will not bore the Gentle Reader with tiresome repetitions. However, I will Utter this Reminder: both of these Birthdays are of the greatest importance in setting forth a child’s future expectations of the Day. He or she must experience these Milestones in a way that causes the child to understand what a Delight it is to Give, rather than Receive. All must be done to make these Birthdays as Joyous Occasions as possible--but do not let the Expectation of Receiving overshadow the Giving. It is for that reason this Writer recommends limiting the receipt of gifts for a Young Child to the number of years the Child is Celebrating. This is, however, merely a Guideline, and is not a Rule of Manners.
THE TWENTIETH BIRTHDAY
As a Lad or Lass leaves childhood behind and enters the Tweenage years, it is important to Mark the Occasion in a memorable fashion.
A Twentieth Birthday is a Good Occasion for a young lass to receive her first piece of “Grown-up” Jewelry. A bracelet or necklace is an Excellent Choice, and if the lass should so happen to be named for a Gem, then it is a nice gesture to include her Namesake Jewel. While it is the usual purview of the Grandparents on the Mother’s Side to make such a Gift, other close friends or Relations may also do so.
In some Families, but not all, it is the Custom to present a Lad with his first Pipe, and a pouch of pipe-weed upon the Occasion of his Twentieth Birthday. However, some Families prefer the habit of Smoking to be taken up at a Later Age, and so wait until the Lad turns Twenty-five.
It is also the Custom for a child entering his or her Tweens to act as the Host or Hostess at his or her own Party for the first time, rather than the Parents, as in previous years. Still, it is a Good Idea for the Parents to keep a close eye upon the fledgling Host or Hostess, and to discourage ostentation and excess.
It is important that a Tweenager learn to graciously Receive Guests, and to see to their Comfort, for Hospitality is foremost.
COMING OF AGE
There is no Occasion more worthy of marking than that of Coming of Age, for it is at this time a Hobbit becomes Accountable for his or her own Behavior, and takes up all the Responsibilities of Adulthood.
A Hobbit who is Coming of Age is expected to give a Memorable Party, and to give Gifts of more Substance than in previous years. An especially remarkable Feast is also anticipated.
It is at the Feast of the Coming of Age that the traditional toast to the Byrding is made, by the Eldest Guest present. This tradition will then be kept up through all Subsequent Birthdays.
GIVING A BIRTHDAY PARTY
The Giving of a Party, though the occasion be a joyous one, can also be a Nervous Task. One wishes, of course, to make one’s Guests happy and comfortable, to feed them well and to provide such Entertainment as may be appropriate. When a Party is small, and consists solely of one’s nearest and dearest Family and Friends, it is not so difficult a task. But when one decides to have a more Elaborate sort of gathering, one must realize that many Guests may be mere Acquaintances, or more Distant Kin, whom one sees very seldom.
It is by no means Wise to give a Party beyond one’s means. Ostentation is never in good taste. However, if one has the ability to do so, it is often the best idea to Hire extra Help for the Event.
If one is expecting many Guests from more distant places, it is a Good Idea to make arrangements ahead of time for their Lodging--any who cannot be Accommodated in one’s own house or smial should have found for them places in local Inns, or among Obliging Neighbors.
One can generally expect an influx of Guests the day before the Party, as many will be wishing to gift the Byrding at the Proper Time. Once the Gifts have been opened and appreciated, they should be Put Away.
It is a good idea to have a small and Informal Supper the night before the Party for one’s Guests.
Upon the day of the Party, one should rise early, in order to make certain that all details have been Properly Seen To. There also may be Guests who wish to bring last minute Gifts, which should arrive before Noon.
In the event that a Gift should by happenstance arrive late, the byrding should have a Friend designated to receive it, and to put it by for a few days before it is opened. After Noon, the byrding should not be distracted by having to deal with Receiving Gifts, but should instead be focused on the Giving of Gifts.
There are a number of ways in which the Giving may take place. The most common way is to have a table set aside, near the Entrance. Then the byrding may distribute each Gift as the Guest for whom it is meant arrives. Make certain that all labels are Firmly Attached!
At smaller Birthday Parties, the byrding may wait, and issue the Gift to each Guest just prior to the Birthday Feast. Some Families like to have a small gathering for those who are closest to receive their Presents, separate from the rest of the Guests. This should be done, if possible Before many Guests begin to Arrive.
ATTENDING A BIRTHDAY PARTY
The most important thing about Attending a Birthday Party is that one not bring a gift to the Party. It is most Insulting to the Host to insinuate that one must Pay for Hospitality! While one may wish to gift the byrding, one should always do so Before the Party begins. And it is not at all Requisite to gift the byrding. He or she will not expect Gifts from any but the closest of Family and Friends. For a mere Acquaintance to bring a Gift gives the impression of an Attempt to Curry Favor, which is Most Distasteful!
When the byrding gives one a Gift, one should open it Immediately, and quickly Express proper Thanks for the Thoughtfulness. If a Gift is something one does not care for, by no means should one express Dismay, by any word or sign. If the mathom one receives is Truly Awful, then one should take it gratefully, and put it Aside when one returns Home.
Once the byrding has attained his or her Majority, then it is only right that much Conversation consist of Reminiscing Fondly of experiences that one has shared with him or her.
And one should, of course, keep in mind all the Previous Advice about Being a Guest.
QUESTIONS OFTEN ASKED ABOUT CELEBRATING BIRTHDAYS:
Must one Give a Birthday Party every year?
Most certainly one is not Obliged to do so. There are many Reasons, very good ones, for not celebrating one’s Every Birthday with a party. There are Hobbits who enjoy hosting Parties, and will gladly give one at every possible celebration. And there are those, who more Reclusive, would prefer not to celebrate the Passing of Every Year.
Still it is considered Proper to mark the Special Birthdays with at least a small Party.
To which Guests must one Present a Gift?
The Brief Answer to that pressing Question is All of Them. A cousin who Attends one’s Parties is no longer a “twelve-mile cousin” as the Vulgar saying goes. One should never invite more Guests than one is Prepared to Gift.
When holding a very large party, to which an Undetermined Number of Guests have been invited, one may properly have a large store of small and inexpensive Token Gifts for the Majority of Guests, while reserving Special and More Specific Gifts for close Family and Friends.
What if there are two byrdings? Who has Precedence? And might they give Joint Gifts?
Considering the size of most Hobbit Families, it is not Unusual for two or more Members of the Family to share a Birthday, or to have their Birthdays so close together that it is necessary to combine the Celebrations.
In such cases, the older byrding is considered the Host, and takes Precedence in matters of Toasting.
While the Party may be held Jointly, Gifts Must Be Given Individually! It is a shirking of one’s obligation to show thankfulness for two persons to give a single Gift.
A Birthday is an occasion on which one may Properly express Gratitude to those Persons who make one’s life Worth Living. Showing Hospitality in the form of food and Gifts is a way of showing that Thankfulness.
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