There are some basic things you need to know about the “Shire Calendar.”
Each month had 30 days.
There are several holidays that don’t fall within those months.
The year starts with one day of Yule, then January through June. Between June 30th and July 1st are three days: 1 Lithe, Midyear’s Day, and 2 Lithe. Their calendar is basically like ours, July till December, with the last day of the year being Yule.
Dealing With Lithe and Yule
The discrepancies between our calendar and the Shire Calendar will be dealt with as they crop up.
This comes into play majorly on our June 30th and July 1st. Rather than two days, we have to deal with five. Fortunately, the story’s schedule makes this more or less easy.
The same will be true between December 30 and January 1st. Then, rather than three days, we’ll have to squeeze in five. The story seems to cooperate there as well.
What is the True Date?
This is a much more complex question to answer. Because Tolkien was incredibly specific about both dates and lunar phases, it’s clear that the calendars basically never match up. Our July 25th is not the story’s July 25th.
For example, we’re told that the Council of Elrond was held on October 25, 3018. According to the lunar phase, the date it happened in our calendar would actually be October 18th.
Trying to sort all of that out and then explaining just how we arrived at all of this would be confusing and unwanted.
The book Untangling Tolkien by Michael W. Perry goes into fine detail about this stuff. I heartily recommend the book and am using it for a very basic outline for the blog.
To be brief, Tolkien linked the Shire Calendar with our calendar by three dates: There were ten days difference on Midyear’s Day; Eight day difference on New Years Day; and Two days difference on March 25th.
Unfortunately, not all of these dates can be true. The author of Untangling Tolkien chose to match up the eight day difference on New Years Day. He assumed that the Shire’s January 1st was our January 9th and went from there.
This really has no bearing at all on this project, as we’re treating the Shire Calendar as our own calendar for the sake of simplicity.
If not, Tolkien Reading Day – March 25th – would have to be celebrated on March 19th. Except on leap years – and both calendars had them, so, … look, this is well beyond me. We’re just going to use the given dates as our own.