January 3rd had every right to be a crappy day. It was the first day back to work. Holiday blues were setting in. Resolutions had already been broken (dry January ended for me at 7 p.m. on January 1, when I unblinkingly accepted a glass of champagne). And just the knowledge that it was only day three of arguably the worst month of the year zapped pretty much all motivation out of me.
I had been juggling a handful of projects prior to Christmas break, and I was absolutely dreading having to catch them, left suspended in mid-air for two weeks. What was my job again? What do I even do for a living? The answers weren’t there.
As a distraction, I was checking my personal email and saw I had received one from my mom. She had sent me an article saying that January 3rd happened to be J.R.R. Tolkien Day — an opportunity to toast the author on his birthday, just as Frodo toasts his Uncle Bilbo in the Fellowship of the Ring. Knowing that Ryan and I had gotten pretty deep into reading Lord of the Rings, my mom thought we’d appreciate the fun fact. Little did she know, the information would actually dictate most of our day.
I immediately informed Ryan of the news, and his response, naturally, was, “Well, we need to celebrate.”
The question was how exactly did we want to celebrate? We decided we’d definitely need to eat some LOTR-inspired food. I began searching for viable recipes, only to discover there’s a full recipe BOOK for such occasions. “We should avoid having hobbit-specific food,” Ryan warned, as I sent options. “We need to save that for September 22nd — Hobbit Day.”
After much back and forth and Ryan’s usual indifference (“You know me, I’m easy. I’ll have anything.”), we settled on choosing the food later, when we knew whether we were craving savory or sweet. Our day unraveled quickly, since we both typically aim to do about a dozen things, when we can realistically accomplish only five of those things. It was now 9 p.m., we had just finished goblets of beer at Fuzzy’s, and needed to procure ingredients for our Tolkien Day feast. We descended upon Sprouts.
We determined that we’d make lembas bread. Lembas bread is a food that the elves give to Frodo and Sam and the Company to fuel them on their journey. A mere bite of lembas is supposed to be so sustaining, you can travel several more leagues with renewed vigor. It seemed to fit the bill.
The lembas recipe was simple enough — flour, butter, brown sugar, heavy whipping cream, cinnamon, etc. With Doris’s help, we were able to get the dough to a perfect consistency to roll out into a quarter-inch thick slab. We then cut the slab into squares, scoring them with Xs from corner to corner. Meanwhile, Ryan played the LOTR soundtrack and we snacked on some bougie lentil ~rings~ we found at Sprouts.
Twelve minutes later, the lembas bread was out of the oven. We didn’t wait too long before sampling the squares, and man, were our minds blown. Ryan took a bite, paused, looked me dead in the eye, and said, “I’m speechless.”
The lembas bread was really everything we had imagined it to be; slightly sweet, a little dense, with a shortbread-like texture. Moreover, it was filling, as described in the book. We each had one with coffee the next morning and found ourselves fully satiated to go running hours later on nothing else. Later that day, sitting around, Ryan suddenly declared, “You know, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and … we need to have that lembas bread all the time. Like, at the crag, at the gym. Like, it should be a staple.”
While I didn’t disagree, we have yet to replicate the lembas bread since J.R.R. Tolkien Day. This is not so tragic, though, as the whole episode evoked a brand new practice for us — one that has really brightened our lives.
For the past several weeks, we’ve been researching the random, sometimes inane, sometimes awesome, holidays that occur each day. I captured as many instances of peanut butter as I could on National Peanut Butter Day (Jan. 24). We went to the liquor store and selected the prettiest brews for National Beer Can Appreciation Day (also Jan. 24). We put hot sauce on our pasta on National Hot Sauce Day (Jan. 22). And on January 21 — a particularly hard, emotional day for me — Ryan gave me all the hugs, since it was National Hug Day.
We’ve done National Blueberry Pancake Day (Jan. 28), National Brussels Sprout Days (Jan. 31), and National Hot Chocolate Day (Jan. 31). We regrettably missed National Chocolate Cake Day (Jan. 27), National Irish Coffee Day (Jan. 25), and National Puzzle Day (Jan. 29). We also failed to take a “shelfie” at the library on January 25, National Library Shelfie Day. However, on National Croissant Day (Jan. 30), we flexed the rules a little and got cronuts.
I’ve been somewhat obsessively posting about these days on Instagram and BeReal, because I’m having such a freaking great time. Not only that, everyone we tell about these little holidays has been so receptive to the idea. And why shouldn’t they be? It’s such an easy way to spark some joy.
Ryan pointed out that the beauty of these silly holidays is that they can help you determine your day. We’re very active people, always wondering, “what should we get up to today?” But really, the question has become: “what should we be celebrating?” Because there’s always always something to celebrate.