My birthday is Dec. 24. And, if you just sighed, groaned or thought, “Poor girl,” you’re definitely not in the minority.
When I tell people what day I was born the reaction is nearly universal. “Oh, that sucks.” “I’m sorry, that must be really awful.” “Bummer. You must get really crummy presents.”
Perhaps I’m just being an optimist here, but any day seems like a pretty good day to be born. And I’ve never seen much point in complaining: “Geez, Mom. You couldn’t get me out of there faster?” After spending three days in labor, having a 10-pounder for her first child and eating hospital Jell-O for Christmas dinner, she already has plenty to hold against me. I don’t think she’d take kindly to my complaints.
Growing up I always thought I had a pretty cool birthday. I got twice as many presents as my younger siblings. I had two birthday parties – one with friends usually a week earlier, and a second with my family on my real birthday. And, when the children’s choir at church sang, “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” I’d chime in my name, too.
My parents did an awesome job keeping the two events separate. Looking back, I can see how hard that must have been during the hectic holiday season and appreciate the birthday injustices I was saved as a child. While other families tore into their presents on Christmas Eve, only one person in my family opened any gifts. And, yes, there were always separate gifts; one set wrapped in party hat and birthday paper, the other with cartoon Santas and bells.
Following our family’s tradition, I always chose what we’d eat for dinner on my birthday, so making homemade lasagna became a holiday tradition and annual burden I’m sure my mom could have done without. Usually a week before Christmas – when they still had last minute holiday shopping to do – my parents were sending out birthday invites and welcoming giggly pre-teen girls over for a slumber party or hauling car loads of kids out for pizza. For my 11th birthday, they even let me invite my entire 5th grade class to a bowling party – though the class clown did manage to push my dad over the edge.
As I got older, separate presents became less important and I was often the recipient of one, larger gift. A deal that suited me just fine.
I can see why people don’t envy my birthday. I’ve heard the horror stories. There are those awful “For Your Christmas Time Birthday” cards that surround a birthday cake with poinsettias and holly. Some friends or relatives make you feel like a terrible burden for having – the nerve – an inconvenient birthday, often with a cheap or bad gift made worse by the fact that it’s for Christmas AND your birthday.
Maybe I just have particularly great friends and family, but I’ve rarely dealt with any of these frustrations. And despite nearly sharing a birthday with a guy whose birth is celebrated by about a billion people, thanks to my parents, I’ve never felt overshadowed. As a kid, I just thought everyone else was celebrating with me.
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