We have now entered what is commonly known as the holiday season, and as such I think we should take a look at what holidays* are in The Canon, and how they might have any chronological affect.
I'll tell you up front that there are six mentioned, but some of them are related. (More on that in a bit.) Along with those six we have one that merits only an Honorable Mention. So let's talk about that first.
Three stories (BRUC, VALL, and FIVE) talk about this one. They don't actually mention the day itself, but merely hint at it. Here is what each says:
“No; his needs were very simple and his salary ample. He had saved a few hundreds, and we were to marry at the New Year.” (Possibly a reference to the actual day.)
"McGinty glanced his eyes over the account of the shooting of one Jonas Pinto, in the Lake Saloon, Market Street, Chicago, in the New Year week of 1874."
“Well, it was the beginning of '84 when my father came to live at Horsham, and all went as well as possible with us until the January of '85. On the fourth day after the new year I heard my father give a sharp cry of surprise as we sat together at the breakfast-table."
As you can see only two of them have it capitalized, while the other simply talks about the fact that the year is new. This is why I am not listing this holiday as an official mention.
Now, let's talk about the others alphabetically.
Anyone who has ever read the entire Canon knows that BLUE is considered THE Christmas story. It is set only two days after. (In fact, the word Christmas appears in the text eight times.) No one has a problem with the date of December 27th, but the year can range from 1888 to 1890 depending on whose timeline you're looking at.
What you may not know, however, is that it's also in SPEC:
"Julia went there at Christmas two years ago, and met there a half-pay Major of Marines, to whom she became engaged."
This is done totally in passing and the only effect it has on the dating of April of 1883 is to strengthen it.
In DANC we have the following passage:
" Last year I came up to London for the Jubilee, and I stopped at a boarding-house in Russell Square, because Parker, the vicar of our parish, was staying in it."
What we don't know from the text is which Jubilee Hilton Cubbitt was talking about. The first was the Golden Jubilee. It was held on June 20, 1887, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth being in charge. The other, or Diamond, occurred almost exactly ten years later on June 22, 1897. The evidence in the story doesn't really specify which it is, but there is not one single chronologist that believes it was the first one. The case is always dated as 1897 or 1898, and I agree with it. If it were the 1887 event then Watson would have been married (or at least would have talked about it in some way), but it doesn't seem that he is. He doesn't say a thing about it, and it looks as though he is living at Baker Street and has been for some time. Thus, it has to be the later one.
"It ended in my moving into the house next Lady Day, and starting in practice on very much the same conditions as he had suggested."
Also known as the Feast of the Annunciation (of the Virgin Mary), this observance takes place on March 25th. We find it in RESI. It has no bearing on dating the case, but this is one where chronologists don't agree very much. All that is certain is that it happened in an October before 1890, so even though all agree on October the year can be anywhere from 1881 to 1887.
"I went down to the Albert Dock yesterday at 6 p.m., and boarded the S.S. May Day, belonging to the Liverpool, Dublin, and London Steam Packet Company."
This one, from CARD, might qualify for an Honorable Mention as well, but hear me out with my reasoning. Yes, it's the name of a ship, but the ship has to be named for the holiday itself since the distress call of 'mayday' wasn't even created until much later in 1923 - and it has nothing to do with May Day itself. Obviously it doesn't factor in to the dates in any way. (By the way, May Day falls on May 1st.)
"So it came to pass that one Michaelmas this Hugo, with five or six of his idle and wicked companions, stole down upon the farm and carried off the maiden, her father and brothers being from home, as he well knew."
This passage from HOUN is talking about a time over 140 years before The Hound of the Baskervilles. Clearly the date isn't bothered by it. And even though Michaelmas takes place on September 29th, it is just a coincidence that quite a few chronologists place the story around that time.
"It is late in March, so quarter-day is at hand."
This is where some of the holidays listed here are related. There are four quarter-days: Lady Day, the unmentioned Midsummer Day (June 24th), Michaelmas, and Christmas. All are roughly three months apart with two are near equinoxes, and two near solstices. The tradition is that they are when rent was due, school terms began, and it was servant-hiring time.
The dating of WIST, where this term appears, does have something to do with the date. In fact, it is basically the hub it all spins on. Thus, nearly every chronologist places this case in March, but the year is hardly agreed upon with a difference of opinion that spreads over 20 years from 1892 to 1902 with most placing it in the early to mid-1890's.
Just like today, there were plenty of holidays, observances, and festivals going on in Victorian England that it's somewhat surprising that more aren't listed. However, Holmes never struck me as much of a fete kind of guy. Still, I can see Watson being more interested, but there's no way to prove that as we know even less about his religious feelings than we do about that of Holmes. Either way, we only have so many cases on which to glean our information about these topics. The Canon, as with a lot of things, is strangely quiet about this.
Make sure to join us next time to see if our intrepid hero can once again thrill us with incredible actions and unmatched intelligence! Until then...
*The term 'holiday' is in The Canon in five cases, but as we are talking about England it refers to a vacation or day off and not an observance of any kind.
BLUE - The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
WIST - The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge
CARD - The Adventure of the Cardboard Box
RESI - The Adventure of the Resident Patient
DANC - The Adventure of the Dancing Men
SPEC - The Adventure of the Speckled Band
BRUC - The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
VALL - The Valley of Fear
FIVE - The Five Orange Pips
HOUN - The Hound of the Baskervilles