Essays

Happy Birthday, Anne Shirley!

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Every year on March 5, I read Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery to celebrate Anne’s birthday. Well, at least I think it is. Birthdays are funny things. They come around every year and we only know about them because someone else told us. That’s the case with Anne Shirley. We never really know when her birthday is. Yet a girl like Anne Shirley deserves to be celebrated. There’s a mention of March here and there; even a couple of birthday celebrations. And yet, no official date of birth.

The closest we get is a date suggested in Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson, officially authorised by Montgomery’s estate and family. And while I’ll take it as semi-canon, I like to use my imagination and daydream of when her birthday might be, how Anne would celebrate, and any inspiration it can give me for my own birthday. I know I’m not alone. Anne has so many kindred spirits amongst us mere readers. You know exactly what I mean. So, help me out. How would you celebrate Anne Shirley’s birthday? 

Screenshot "Anne with an E" Anne with Matthew
Image from “Anne with an E”

A Winter’s Walk in the Woods

“The winter weeks slipped by. It was an unusually mild winter, with so little snow that Anne and Diana could go to school nearly every day by way of the Birch Path. On Anne’s birthday they were tripping lightly down it, keeping eyes and ears alert amid all their chatter, for Miss Stacy had told them that they must soon write a composition on “A Winter’s Walk in the Woods”… This was how the story club came into existence.”

Anne of Green Gables

I start off the day with a walk outside. I would love to walk around in the woods with Anne and Diana, but sometimes I need to settle for a quick stroll around the urban jungle. Cool crisp air on your skin, with plenty of scope for storytelling.

Which reminds me: always carry a notebook and pen. I’m going to blame fellow Book Rioter Vanessa and her convincing argument that you can never have too many pens, pencils and notebooks. Thanks, Vanessa – you can now find me tucked away in nature with a new notebook dedicated to Anne Shirley. 

Friends of Anne Shirley

“I’m so thankful for friendship. It beautifies life so much.”

Anne of Avonlea

Next on the list is to check in with a friend. Sometimes it can simply be a phone call to see how they are doing. Top points if we take the time for a cup of tea at the local cafe. For Anne, spending the day with her nearest and dearest is the perfect birthday gift. Friendship and acceptance are at the heart of her very beginning. It doesn’t have to be a big party (even if Josephine Barry throws the BEST parties). It simply needs to have the right people.

In Anne with an E, Anne’s friends gather for a surprise party to celebrate her birthday. The sentimental nature and the gift of their time are even sweeter than the delicious cake and afternoon tea on offer. 

Screenshot from "Anne with an E", Anne celebrates her birthday with friends. 

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8912072/mediaviewer/rm180849153/?ref_=ext_shr_lnk
Image from “Anne with an E”

Wild Cherry Trees

“It would be lovely to sleep in a wild cherry-tree all white with bloom in the moonshine, don’t you think?”

Anne of Green Gables

Anne’s need for acceptance is a driving force for her. Despite all the preparations for her arrival in Avonlea, Anne has Plan B: If her guardian does not appear, Anne will sleep in the trees near the train station. It sounds awfully dreamy and idyllic; however, it is another example of her fear (and expectation) for rejection. In Anne’s style, she is able to dress it up with flourish and pizazz but it still stands: Anne Shirley is more prepared for being left behind at the train station than she is for a new home. This is a girl who needs a celebration every birthday, to show how special and accepted she is!

If you live in the right places, find yourself a big wild cherry tree, laden with white blossoms, and park yourself down with a book. For those of us in more temperate climates, a cherry blossom bonsai is a good alternative. 

A Crown Fit for a Birthday Queen

“If I wasn’t a human girl, I think I’d like to be a bee and live among the flowers.”

Anne of Green Gables

Speaking of flowers, Anne of Green Gables is the reason I love flower crowns! I struggled with them as a child, never quite meeting my creative goal in time for Anne’s birthday. I was lucky enough to attend a flower crown workshop a few years ago and have kept the skills ever since (I shared the instructions here). It can be a bit tricky finding the right flowers in the cooler months, but winter heath and crocus are good alternatives. 

DIY Flower Crown
DIY Flower Crown / Image by A Cahill

Like Pearls Slipping Off a String

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

Anne of Avonlea

The final touch I add to my special reading day is a pearl bracelet. Up-front honesty: They are fake. And that’s perfect. One of Anne’s most treasured birthday gifts was a string of pearls from her eldest child, Jem, in Anne of Ingleside. He was heartbroken to learn afterwards they were fake, but for Anne they were a treasure. They were a gift bought sincerely and with the dedication of love.

My grandmother gave me a pearl bracelet many years ago. It doesn’t fit my wrists anymore, but it makes for a beautiful bookmark on Anne’s birthday. 

Screenshot from "Anne of Green Gables"
Image from “Anne of Green Gables”

Happy birthday, Anne Shirley – be it March 5 or ‘sometime in March’. The actual birthdate is not essential in celebrating Anne’s birthday. What is important is how we can celebrate this vibrant inspiration for life and creativity. 

And it gives me a good excuse to sit down for the day and read my favourite book.