however improbable

Happy Epiphany/Theophany/Twelfth Night/Sherlock Holmes's birthday (observed)!

But why is it Sherlock Holmes's birthday (observed), you may be wondering, if you don't already know. This has always been one of my favorite Sherlockian (or Holmesian) deductions, because the evidence is so thin—even for this sort of pseudoscholarship, I mean, and not just generally—and yet so widely accepted, presumably because the convenience of having a date for observation outweighs all other considerations.

The cases for and against this date are summarized thusly in The Annotated Sherlock Holmes by William S. Baring-Gould, one of my bibles since early adolescence:
For the "January 6th" we have the evidence of The Valley of Fear. That interesting case began on January 7th (1888) and we are told that Holmes on the morning of that day "leaned upon his hand, with his untasted breakfast before him…" "Surely it is clear," Mr. Nathan L. Bengis wrote in "What Was the Month?", "that there had been some small jollification the night before in celebration of the Master's birthday, and that his lack of appetite was the result of a hangover?"

Again, Holmes quotes Shakespeare often, but Twelfth Night is the only such play that Holmes quotes twice. Twelfth Night is January 6th; Holmes, then, was especially fond of that play because January 6th was his own birthdate.

[astrological 'evidence' snipped for personal want of interest]

Opposed to the January school of thought, however, is the June school, represented by Messrs. Russell McLauchlin and Rolfe Boswell, who base their case on the emerald tiepin presented to Holmes by Queen Victoria for his successful solution to the theft of the Bruce-Partington submarine plans.

"If the Widow of Winsor took it into her dear, old head to give somebody a precious stone," Mr. McLauchlin wrote ("On the Dating of the Master's Birth"), "there is only one plan of selection that would have occurred to her. She would, of course, choose his birthstone. There is some question about birthstones, to be sure. There are ancient and modern theories. According to the former, the emerald is the birthstone for May. By more modern reckoning, it is the birthstone for June. Which system, so to speak, did Queen Victoria play?"

To this, Mr. Boswell has responded ("A Rare Day in June") that "the Queen, as her subjects well knew, was a stickler for the proprieties. In her day, the agate was first choice for May's birthstone, while the emerald held pride of place for June…On balancing probabilities, it is apparent that the Master was born in June. Can that Rare Day be pinpointed? The reply is in the positive…Sherlock Holmes was born on Saturday, June 17, 1854 [June 17th is Mr. Boswell's date for "The Red-Headed League"]."

But Mr. Bengis has struck a telling counterblow for the January school in "What Was the Month?": "…the only thing we can be sure of…is not that the gem was an emerald, but that it was green. Now the first choice for January…was the garnet. Further research has revealed that there is a somewhat rare variety of garnet, emerald green in color, called uvarovite. If the gem in the tiepin was uvarovite, it was still a garnet and therefore still a January stone, even though it looked like an emerald [to Watson]." (Vol. I, pp. 49-50)

Incidentally, as another January birthday who has never cared for regular garnets—they look like dead rubies—I am intrigued by the existence of emerald-looking garnets, and if I ever found a nice pair of uvarovite earrings I would be tempted to buy them.

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Thank you for assembling the quotes! I remembered the bits about Holmes quoting Twelfth Night twice, and the green garnet, but I'd forgotten the presumed-hangover bit.
Delighted to be of service!

I am curious who all was imagined to be present at this 'small jollification', by Mr. Nathan L. Bengis or indeed any of his readers. I mean, Watson, obviously, but who else?
\\\o/// Here's to Mister Sherlock Holmes! *salutes own battered slipcover of Baring-Gould, which is in fact packed away at present, so is actually saluting a cardboard carton*

Erm... you don't happen to remember what year WB-G thought Holmes was born in?

One of my coworkers is lucky enough to have his birthday on January 6, and each year I make a Holmes reference, and by that time he's forgotten so I explain all over again.

(He's a bit like BBC Sherlock in that there are some things he'll store in his attic on his hard drive, and some things he won't. He's also brilliant. There the resemblances mostly end ;-)
He personally opts for 1854, although he also runs through various claims for "the years 1852, 1853, 1854, 1855, 1857-59, and even in 1867" [!].

My original copies were actually the library's, which I checked out repeatedly, but then I was lucky enough to find a lovely set at a used bookstore for my very own. *clutches them to my bosom*
Bless Holmesian pseudoscholarship. Surely people really just want January 6th because it's funny to have a detective born on Epiphany.
Yes! It's so obviously appropriate. But of course, it's terribly gauche to be seen theorizing before one has data and twisting facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts, so one must never mention it.