When was the composer Frédéric Chopin born?

What do you think Frédéric Chopin's exact date of birth was? It's not a simple question to answer, and there's still no agreement among Chopin experts on when he was born.

When was the composer Frédéric Chopin born?
When was the true birth of Frédéric Chopin, the composer? Credit: Wikimedia

Do you know the exact date that Frédéric Chopin was born? The answer is not easy, and Chopin experts still can't agree on when he was born or what year it was. The birth certificate and the baptismal certificate are the two documents that researchers can use.

Both of them point to February 22 and the year 1810, which was the current year at the time. One of these two certificates was found as early as the end of the 19th century, and this date was also written in Chopin's biographies. But it's important to remember that in the 19th century, it was often hard to figure out the real date of birth. It just didn't mean as much back then as it does now.

We only have these two documents and the dates given in Chopin's writings, which are talked about in both specialized and general scientific articles. It turns out that Józef Sikorski, a music critic, and journalist from Warsaw, was the first Polish author to write about Chopin's birthday.

In his book about Chopin, which came out soon after the composer's death in 1849, Sikorski wrote that Chopin was born on March 1, 1809, in the Zelazov Wall. On the other hand, we know from Fryderyk Chopin's letters that he thought he was born on March 1, but in 1810. How could 1809 be the year as well?

Chopin's birth date in the Polish literature

Here, we have to assume that the composer's family, especially his mother Justine Chopin, was the most reliable source for the date and year. One possibility is that Chopin's birth wasn't recorded in official records for almost a year. Another is that the baby was baptized quickly out of fear for his life and that this was not properly recorded.

The note written by Józef Sikorski on March 1, 1809, was also added to the Polish Encyclopedia. For example, Schulz, a Polish biographer of Chopin, wrote that Fryderyk Chopin was born on the night of March 1 to March 2, 1809. He said in the book's introduction that this date fits with what people still alive today remember and what other books say.

So far, scholars have settled on two different dates for Chopin's birth: March 1, 1809, or February 22, 1810. Some people defend Chopin's view of March 1, 1810, which is sometimes treated as a strong argument. It's important to note that until the end of the 19th century, Chopin's biographers were hesitant to look at documents. Instead, they relied on what Chopin's family or other people told them.

Fryderyk Chopin himself probably never used his birth certificate (or a copy of it).

In those days, this kind of document was often used for sacraments (like marriage) and to prove that someone was a noble. Both of these things didn't matter in Chopin's life, and for the same reason, it's unlikely that his family had this document or a copy of it.

Today, people who work at the Fryderyk Chopin Museum in Warsaw tell visitors that Poles don't know when the composer was born, but that doesn't stop them from celebrating his birthday for a whole week, from February 22 to March 1.