Tomorrow is December 16–for some, just another Tuesday in late fall; for others, Beethoven’s birthday; and for Janeites, of course, the 239th birthday of our beloved author.
For decades, at least, Janeites have commemorated this day with social events of one kind or another. Back when the Jane Austen Society of North America was new, its second president, Joseph Costa, used to advise new members to find a kindred soul and go out for a birthday dinner. (My JASNA chapter met this past weekend to drink tea, eat scones, and celebrate.)
So it seems a tad redundant for the Jane Austen Centre of Bath, England, to announce with much fanfare that December 16 shall henceforth be known as “Jane Austen Day.” The cynic in me can’t help wondering if this momentous proclamation may be less about Jane Austen than about luring visitors to the 16 percent discount at the Centre’s gift shop.
But never mind–anything that brings people to Jane Austen is a good thing. Given how much mental bandwidth I and other Janeites dedicate to Austen, however, I’m put in mind of that conversation that so many parents have with their children, the one that begins with the whiny question, “How come there’s a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day, but no Children’s Day?”
Traditionally, the exhausted parent–who has just spent the past twenty-four hours washing soccer uniforms, cooking chicken nuggets, supervising bath time, driving to a Girl Scout meeting, picking up Legos, and planning a birthday party–replies, “EVERY day is Children’s Day!”
For me, and probably for many of you, every day is Jane Austen Day. But happy 239th birthday anyway.