June 8th, 2009

Regency Birthdays

My google-fu has totally failed me, for I cannot find ANY decent information about how birthdays were celebrated in the regency era apart from "they ate cakes, sometimes servants celebrated those of the family, and royalty made a really big deal about them".

The context: 1813, England, 19 year old woman from a moderately well off family is living as a Ladies companion for a rich relative who doesn't know her very well. Since she's there for a while she has to hit a birthday eventually, so what I want to know is:
How big a deal were birthdays? Would she be expected to go home to celebrate it, or would her family just send gifts? Or just letters? Or just wish her a happy birthday when they saw her next?
Would her relative be expected to know when her birthday was and get a gift? Anything else I should keep in mind? And how much of a big deal would be made about her rich relative's birthday? (She's about 30 and single)

The character is not the sort to care all that much about birthdays but her family would if they were supposed to.

I'm not planning on making a big deal out of it, but it's niggling at me and it would feel weird to ignore it and just act like she never had a birthday at all :)

Un-useful searches: 18th century/19th century/regency + birthday (+ middle class)
I read the wikipedia pages on birthdays and birthday cake and searched for "birthday" on the regency encyclopedia, for all the good it did me

Need a phrase for financial shenanigans

Setting: modern day USA

Google terms used: variants on "bookkeeping frauds"

Situation: a teenager is remembering the point at which her family broke up, and I have the line "Dad got arrested for playing games with the bookkeeping." I'd like something a bit more specific to describe his crime, but I haven't found anything. "Embezzling" seems a bit too obvious and pat. The family's lower middle class so we're not talking a Madoff-level pyramid scheme, and the teen's vocabulary isn't terribly sophisticated (she goes on to say "I started running pot to pay the rent").

The verb could be something else if that works better (indicted?).

Thanks!

ETA: looks as though "cooking the books" is the sort of thing I'm looking for, and "keeping a double set of books" if I want to get more specific. Still happy to hear other suggestions, though!

Myth about burying something living during the construction of a building in order to protect it

Setting: Present Day USA
Searched: Google, various variations of terms above

In the story there's a killer staging his murders after various myths.

I've heard about this one where something living is buried in the walls of a building in order to protect it, but the only reference I've come across in 'Der Schimmelreiter' by Theodor Storm, there, people try to throw a little dog into a dike because they think it'll withstand a flood.

Does anyone know any other reference?

Thank you!