Sherlock Holmes' Birthday...

...How the Date Was Fixed, How Fans Celebrate It Today and More Trivia!

First things first: Sherlock Holmes' birthday is celebrated by most people in the world on January 6th.

Almost everyone agrees that Sherlock Holmes was born in the year 1854. So, his actual date of birth is:

January 6th, 1854

Sherlock Holmes' birthday celebrations - Watson and Holmes

Now, when I first heard about that date, I was curious.

Why 1854?

And why January 6th?

Is this date mentioned in the original Sherlock Holmes stories?

I dug as deep as I could and researched the heck out of every source I could find - to find out why Sherlock Holmes' birthday is on January 6th, 1854.

Here's what I dug up...

The Reason Why Sherlock Holmes' Birthday Is On January 6, 1854

First, the Year 1854...

The year's fairly easy.

Here's how a disguised Sherlock Holmes is described in the story, His Last Bow (set in August, 1914):

He was a tall, gaunt man of sixty, with clear-cut features and a small goatee beard which gave him a general resemblance to the caricatures of Uncle Sam.

Now, clearly, if in 1914, Sherlock Holmes was sixty years old, he must have been born 60 years earlier in 1854.

That's it! Simple.

Sherlock Holmes was born in 1854.

Now, we come to the difficult part. Why, in the name of god is January 6th Sherlock Holmes' birthday?

That's not mentioned anywhere in the original Sherlock Holmes stories and novels.

What About the Date: January 6th?

The crux is that this is because of a famous journalist and novelist called Christopher Morley. 

This person was one of the founders of the Baker Street Irregulars. The Baker Street Irregulars is one of the largest and oldest Sherlock Holmes societies in the world.

Christopher Morley - founder of the Baker Street Irregulars

So, if I had to condense everything I know about January 6th, I'd say this: Christopher Morley liked that date. 

He founded one of the oldest and most prestigious Sherlockian groups in the world. So the date spread - and that's Holmes' birthday today!

I can hear you say: is that it? He liked it, and that's it?

Well, not exactly.

Yes, the main reason is that Morley recommended the date. But he did give some reasons - though they were a bit vague if you ask me.

Here's what Christopher Morley wrote in a US magazine called Saturday Review of Literature published on January 6, 1933.

I have not looked up the date, but if, as an astrologer has suggested, Sherlock Holmes was most likely born in January, some observance is due.


Therefore, if the matter has never been settled, I nominate January 6th (the date of this issue of the Saturday Review) as his birthday...

The very next year, Christopher Morley organized a small get-together on January 6th, 1934 - to celebrate Sherlock Holmes' birthday. Some famous Sherlock Holmes fans were there including writer Vincent Starret and actor William Gillette.

And that's it, things took off from there!

I can again hear you say: so astrology was the reason?

Well, not the only one.

Later, Christopher Morley offered one more explanation, a more logical one. 

He wrote in the Baker Street Journal that Sherlock Holmes quotes only one literary work twice: Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

So, January 6th - the twelfth night after Christmas - should be his birthday date.

Mmm...I don't quite get that. I mean, I'm not denying what he says. Sherlock Holmes does say:

 "Journeys end with lovers' meetings."

...twice in the stories - once in The Empty House and again in The Red Circle.

And yes, that's almost exactly what Shakespeare writes in his play Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night is the only Shakesperian work that Sherlock Holmes quotes twice in the stories

Yes, it is the only Shakesperian quote that appears twice in the stories.

BUT, why would that make the Twelfth Night according to some Christians - January 6th - Sherlock Holmes' birthday?

As Sherlock Holmes says...

"It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

Anyway, that was the accepted explanation till 1957.

In 1957, a member of the Baker Street Irregulars - called Nathan Bengis - wrote an article in the Baker Street Journal.

In this article, he said that Sherlock Holmes appears a bit moody and out of sorts at the start of novel - The Valley of Fear.

This is what happens at the start of the novel:

“I am inclined to think—” said I (Watson).


“I should do so,” Sherlock Holmes remarked impatiently.


“Really, Holmes,” said I severely, “you are a little trying at times.”

Now, Nathan Bengis' idea was that this is because Sherlock Holmes has a hangover on that day. That day is mentioned as January 7th in The Valley of Fear.

So Nathan Bengis said:

Surely it is clear that there had been some small jollification the night before in celebration of the Master's (Sherlock Holmes') birthday, and that his lack of appetite was the result of a hangover?

He basically said that Sherlock Holmes was in a bad mood because he'd drunk a lot the previous night - which must have been his birthday.

Hence proved: January 6th is Sherlock Holmes' birthday!

Now I know this is not again as logical as Holmes would like - but hey - it makes some sense at least.

These Twelfth Night and hangover explanations were repeated by William Baring-Gould, the famous writer of the book - Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, in 1962.

That made the theories even more popular and...

...the date got cemented.

If you've read this far and you're saying, "Is that all?" then well, the truth is - yes.

OK, there's one more tiny titbit: January 6th was also Christopher Morley's brother Felix's birthday. That might just have helped him choose January 6th?

And yet another one: Sherlock Holmes' qualities match a lot with that of Capricorns and January 6th falls under the sun-sign Capricorn...

There: I've put forth all the arguments for why Sherlock Holmes' birthday is on January 6th.

Sherlock Holmes' Birthday is celebrated on January 6th because...

The crux is: there had to be a date to celebrate our good old Holmes' birthday, right?

Christopher Morley suggested a date. There was some intriguing trivia that made the date interesting.

And voila - Sherlock Holmes' birthday was born!

I know the logic isn't sound. But then as Sherlock Holmes would say:

"Data! Data! Data! I can't make bricks without clay."

...And Sherlockians around the world had to do just that!

They had to figure out this birthday business without Conan Doyle providing any data. I'd say they've done their best.

And come on: does the exact day really matter?

If people who love Sherlock Holmes come together and celebrate his existence, any date's just as good. :-)


So How Is Sherlock Holmes' Birthday Celebrated?

The BSI Weekend Celebrations in New York

BSI Weekend - Holmes' birthday celebrations in New York

The grandest, most important celebration of Sherlock Holmes' birthday has been happening almost every year in New York since 1934.

This celebration is called the BSI weekend.

BSI stands for Baker Street Irregulars - it's one of the oldest Sherlock Holmes societies.

Hundreds of Sherlockians attend this weekend. 

So, when exactly does this celebration take place?

It takes place during the extended weekend near  January 6th every alternate year.

Every other alternate year, the Sherlock Holmes Society of London reserves its birthday celebration weekend. So in those alternate years, the BSI celebrations are held on the weekend after the nearest weekend to January 6th.

The celebration begins with a dinner hosted by another friendly Sherlock Holmes society called The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes (ASH) on Wednesday.  

From Wednesday to Saturday, there are plenty of fun events.

There's a Christopher Morley walk where Sherlockians visit places associated with Morley. (Yup, this is the same Christopher Morley who gave Sherlock Holmes his birthday.)

There's a distinguished speaker lecture, lots of parties, quizzes, a 'mysterious bookshop' visit and lots of fun-stuff at a bar called O'Lunney's.

There's also poem recitation - Sherlockians recite the emotional poem by Vincent Starrett called 221b. (That's one of my favourite poems.)

And yes - there are also plenty of awards to be given: the Morley-Montgomery Award, the Intrepid Irregular award and the Two Shilling award!

The highlight of this celebration is the BSI dinner in Yale Club on Friday - which is an invitation only dinner.

The BSI Dinner - Sherlock Holmes' birthday celebrations in 2014

Thanks to Scott Monty from I Hear of Sherlock for this one!

This means that only BSI investitures can attend this dinner. Every year or so, the investiture of new members takes place during this dinner.

These new members get a cool 'name' from the original Sherlock Holmes stories and a shilling.

The other Sherlock Holmes fans who aren't a part of the BSI dinner, have fun at another ball called The Gaslight Gala on Friday night.

And yes, I haven't mentioned it yet but the dress code is: as Victorian as possible!

I have never attended a BSI weekend yet, but I'd LOVE to be there one day soon!

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London's Birthday Celebrations 

Sherlock Holmes' birthday is also celebrated in Riga, Latvia

Now, the BSI's celebrations in the US are the grandest BUT - the Sherlock Holmes Society of London's birthday celebrations are unique in their own way too!

These celebrations have been held since 1952.

The celebratory dinner is held on Saturday night.  There's the Toney Howlett award that's given to a cool Sherlockian, there's a star guest speaker and there's a sumptuous meal at...

...The House of Commons (the lower house of the UK Parliament!)

There's also a Sunday morning get-together where Sherlockians interact a bit more informally.

Now here's a fun fact: just in case you were taking that 'guest speaker lecture' on Saturday night lightly, let me tell you that these guys below have all given lectures during the SHSL weekend:

Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat (the creators of BBC Sherlock), Agatha Christie, Anthony Horowitz...

Mark Gatiss at the Sherlock Holmes Society of London's annual dinner

Thanks to this site for this picture of Mark Gatiss.

In fact, a funny thing happened when Mark Gatiss spoke at the weekend in 2006. He bumped into BBC's Afghanistan correspondent John Simpson and said, "You have been in Afghanistan I perceive...".

 If you're not aware, this is Sherlock Holmes' first line to Watson in the original stories.

Sherlock Holmes' Birthday Celebrations in Latvia

Yes, Latvia is another place where Sherlock Holmes' birthday is being celebrated in a big way since 2012. Now, these are not the largest celebrations in the world - but it's a beginning.

These celebrations in Riga, Latvia take place on the weekend near January 6th. 

People dress up as Sherlock Holmes and carry out a procession, there's a retro photo-shoot, there are plenty of detective games and there's even a dog breeds parade!

Take a peek at the Sherlock Holmes Birthday Procession in 2013 below:

Sherlock Holmes' birthday celebrations in Riga, Latvia.

Thanks to CNTV.cn for this picture.

Interesting!

Celebrations at Sherlock Holmes Societies All Over the World!

There are a total of more than 250 active Sherlock Holmes societies throughout the world. That's a big number.

These societies celebrate Sherlock Holmes' birthday in different fun ways. 

There are fascinating toasts raised - toasts to the virtues of Mrs. Hudson, to Watson's second wife, to brother Mycroft and even to Moriarty!

There are quizzes and expert speeches, real mysteries are debated, cakes are cut, and presentations are given.

People dress up as Sherlock Holmes too...

Take a peek at this picture of the birthday cake cut by the Criterion Bar Association in Illinois, USA in 2015:

Sherlock Holmes' birthday cake

Thanks to the Criterion Bar Association for this picture.


More Cool Trivia About
Sherlock Holmes' Birthday

 1 Does Sherlock Holmes Have All the Qualities of a Capricorn?

Since Sherlock Holmes' birthday is on January 6th, his sun-sign is Capricorn.

Now normally, I don't really believe what sun-signs have to say, but I thought it would be fun to ask:

How many typical Capricorn qualities does Sherlock Holmes have?

Here's a fun comparison of Capricorn's qualities mentioned in the famous book - Linda Goodman's Sun Signs - and Sherlock Holmes' qualities in the books...
Sherlock Holmes and Capricorn qualities

2 What Other Cool Things Happened in History on January 6?

When I learnt about Sherlock Holmes' birthday being on January 6th, a question that popped up was:

What else is cool about Jan 6?

Well, my research showed me quite a few things!  For instance, the telegraph was first demonstrated in public on January 6th and the first boxing match in the world was held on that day...

Here's more info:

Some cool things that happened on Sherlock Holmes' birthday - January 6th

Winding Up Trivia: The Birthdays of Popular Actors Who've Played Sherlock Holmes!

When are the birthdays of famous actors who have played Sherlock Holmes? I think that's a good question to ask.

Well, here's when 6 famous actors' birthdays fall:

Birthdays of actors who have played Sherlock Holmes

Thanks RanZag on Wikipedia for Cumberbatch's picture. 


Well, that's it for now. :-)

If you're still reading: hope you enjoyed this post!  Do tell me anything that's on your mind in the comments. 


› Sherlock Holmes' Birthday

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.