Let’s Celebrate Birthdays Well!

Birthdays are big deals. They provide a wonderful moment to pause, look back, dream forward and celebrate with family and friends in the here and now. 

Birthdays don’t play a prominent role in Austen’s novels, but they do in her few surviving letters. I like that because it shows a wonderful emotional connectedness to her family and to the life going on around her. 

We all know her sister Cassandra destroyed the vast majority of Austen’s letters, but a few survived – letters to nieces and other family members. In these, she displays her incomparable wit – even writing one backwards – and a true interest in everyone’s life. And she talks about birthdays – royal birthdays, neighbor birthdays, family birthdays and even dates one letter “Chawton, Sunday, June 23rd, Uncle Charles’s birthday.”

That “date” particularly struck me.  We mark time in so many way – weeks, months, seasons, semesters, quarters… Why not mark it between the birthdays family and close friends? 

Anyone celebrating a birthday this month? And, if so, Happy Birthday! 

7 Responses to Birthdays!

  1. No Birthdays this month, but I love that Jane Austen and Ludwig von Beethoven share the same day even if in different years.

  2. I like the way Austen marked time in her letter, remembering the birthday of an uncle as she dated the letter.

    This month marked my daughter’s birthday (9th–turned 27), my dad’s birthday (15th–77), my sister (22nd–48), a dear friend from college days (today–55). March and April are the big birthday months in our family. 🙂

    In the Book of Common Prayer 2011 (American trial version for the Reformed Episcopal Church), we have this prayer for birthdays:

    WATCH over your child/servant, Lord, as his/her days increase; Bless and guide him/her wherever s/he may be, keeping him/her unstained from the world; Strengthen him/her when s/he stands; Comfort him/her when discouraged or sorrowful; Raise him/her up if s/he falls; And in his/her heart may your peace, which surpasses all understanding, abide all the days of his/her life; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (References: James 1.27; Amos 9.11; Philippians 4.7)

    Susanne 🙂

  3. It is quite disheartening to have others forget one’s birthday, but it was not so for Jane Austen and her family. We know Christmas had not the “glorious significance” as it does these days, but what of birthdays? Quite simply, as Anglicans, such humoring of a person, would have been frowned upon.

    Can you think of one person in Austen’s books who even mentions a birthday? The only one which springs to mind to me is Harriet Smith in “Emma.” Harriet speaks of hers and Robert Martin’s birthdays occurring within a fortnight, and those birthdays were separated only by one day.

    As readers we know many of the characters’ ages. Lydia Bennet is but fifteen when we first meet her, but she is sixteen when she marries George Wickham. Marianne Dashwood is seventeen at the beginning of “Sense and Sensibility” and is nineteen when she marries Colonel Brandon. Fanny Price is a child when she first comes to “Mansfield Park”; yet, never once are her birthdays mentioned as a passing of time. Jane Fairfax is approaching one and twenty and the prospect of becoming a governess. Charlotte Lucas at seven and twenty has “become a burden to her family.” Elizabeth Elliot is nearly thirty and not married, and Anne Elliot is seven and twenty when Captain Wentworth returns to claim her. Catherine Morland turns eighteen just before Henry Tilney claims her as his wife. Even Elizabeth Bennet must have had a birthday somewhere in the year she had taken Mr. Darcy’s acquaintance. But when? There is no mention of her chronological aging, only her emotional aging. The closest we come to knowing something of Elizabeth’s age is when she admits to being twenty to Lady Catherine. But we do not know if she was nineteen when the book began and turned twenty some time between November when she dance with Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield Ball, or whether, like me, she is a September baby, turning one and twenty after she encounters Darcy again at Pemberley. Is such true for all of Austen’s characters? Austen wrote from her life experiences. If she did not “celebrate” such milestones, why would her characters?

  4. I can’t think of any birthdays that I am celebrating this month and mine is in June however next month has about a half a dozen birthdays that I celebrate or acknowledge with cards. Thanks for sharing this post and it is interesting that birthdays are mentioned in many of Jane Austen’s remaining letters.

  5. That is a nice way to mark time! I don’t have a birthday til November but we do have three April birthdays though all in my brother’s family!lol

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