Every year, on the weekend closest to January 3rd, my brother Bob throws a feast in honor of J.R.R. Tolkien.
He invites as many people over as his house can hold, cooks up a giant pot roast, loads up on several cases of wine and port, and rearranges his entire living space to accommodate some 70 people or so. We eat, drink, and make merry. Guests stand to read their favorite excerpts from Tolkien’s extended works. One guest has been tasked with composing a speech to honor The Professor, which they usually deliver some time after dinner but before dessert. The musically inclined pull together a list of poems and music a few days in advance, and perform them as the post-dinner entertainment. For those who hold out till the very end, Bob shares a small toast of whiskey.
Two things about this event amaze me, every year. The first is my brother’s incredible generosity. It takes a lot to dine and wine that many people, and I am both proud of and grateful to my brother for making this experience a priority and doing so much to make it happen every year.
The second has to do with the social phenomenon of creating holidays and traditions. When I lived in Scotland, the corresponding celebration was Burn’s Night: an annual feast in honor of Sir Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet. Similar to Bob’s Tolkien Feast, Burn’s Night involved feasting, toasting, speeches, and dancing. (I still have dreams one day of organizing a ceilidh at one of Bob’s events, but it hasn’t happened yet.)
We don’t need many excuses to find a way to get together and celebrate. And Tolkien Feast, to me, takes on special import for being such a personal holiday. We invented it because we collectively decided that Tolkien was worth celebrating in that manner—for his wit, his wisdom, and his erudition. And because it seems so very hobbit-like to do so.
So to Bob: Thank you for your generosity in making this happen another year.
And to the Professor: cheers.