Half The Presents, Double The Attention

Save Your Pity: We Christmas Babies Are Just Fine

Here’s what it’s really like to be born on Dec. 25.

When I tell people that my birthday is Christmas Day, I usually get a look of mild pity and an “Oh, I’m sorry. That sucks,” as if I’d told them I was allergic to strawberries or I’ve had “Tubthumping” stuck in my head for a week.

Then they want to know the big question: Did I get fewer presents?

I guess I probably did, on balance, though it’s a difficult question to answer accurately since I would have had to track the number of birthday gifts my siblings received over the years for comparison. (I regret not doing this, honestly. What a goldmine of petty that would be.) I appreciate the concern, but my mom was a world-class gift giver who believed in back-to-school shopping sprees and Valentine’s Day presents and special souvenirs from big trips. I have never lacked in the good fortune department.

What I’d really like all you parents of Christmas babies past and present (and yet to be born) to know is that you have nothing to fear or regret. Dec. 25 is a great birthday.

First, there’s the unbridled enthusiasm you get from the corners of the room not concerned with the horror of “combo gifts.” “A Christmas baby!” these people exclaim when I tell them my birthday. These are people who just love the holidays and that joyful zeal spills over onto me like a shower of tinsel. It’s arbitrary but sweet. You really can’t tell me enough times that I’m the best Christmas gift my parents ever received.

Attention is attention, after all, even if you have to share it with baby Jesus.

Second, people are so worried that you’re somehow getting short shrift, they’ll offer you any accommodation. Don’t waste people’s misplaced pity, I say. Sure, I never had a birthday party on my actual birthday. But you can claim any other day you want. Dec. 14? Why not! Jan. 10? Let’s do it! Hell, you can do it in February if you want. (I know there are holiday babies who go the half-birthday route, but that never worked for me. I’m a creature of winter — celebrating in June just seems weird.)

Our loved ones do have to carve out a little dedicated time for us on the big day. Growing up, in my house, it was Christmas in the morning but my birthday in the evening. There was a second stack of presents, wrapped in different paper, that I opened at dinnertime, and our dessert was birthday cake. As far as I’m concerned, those paper hats in Christmas crackers are birthday crowns.

A lovely friend of mine with an April birthday confessed that she would “HATE” having a Christmas birthday, as a “selfish Aries.” She likes a week of steady celebrations and treats and does not care to share the spotlight. She did add that “it does appeal to my enjoyment of feeling special.” Even a fire sign can see that all of the talk of a very special time of year can start to rub off on a girl. Attention is attention, after all, even if you have to share it with baby Jesus.

(I am a Capricorn and therefore do not believe in astrology, but my friend’s comment about being a “selfish Aries” piqued my interest. Could it be that my sign made me uniquely suited to tolerating a holiday birthday? I consulted a friend of a friend who is an astrologer, and here’s what she said about people born on Christmas: “They secretly resent it but know they get more successful each year, so that helps. Cap is ruled by Saturn, which gets better with age like fine wine. Their vibe is to not make a big deal of it, then resent that no one did.” Pretty much spot on aside from the secret resentment.)

The world is on pause, and for a moment, people do their best to embrace the idea of hope in a dark hour, grateful for the love they have and the many gifts they have been given.

Lastly, there are all the wonderful things that Christmas babies get that people born on March 23 or Nov. 15 could only dream of. For example, I always have something ready for two truths and a lie. Giving people my birthday over the phone is fun. I just say “Dec. 25” like it’s no big deal and wait for them to figure it out and go “hey!” I can make people sing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Silent Night” at my birthday parties, and they pretty much have to comply. (Apologies to all my Jewish friends. I always forget how hard “We Three Kings” goes with the godhead stuff. I do feel bad about that.)

You can go too far with making your Christmas-baby identity part of your personality. When I was about 3, I named my baby doll after the only two people I knew who shared her birthday (which was, as you might expect, Dec. 25). She was called Elizabeth Jesus Christ Angell; my parents had some explaining to do when I would casually announce it. (Similarly, I would caution any overzealous parents of December babies away from names like Noelle and Christine. My last name is Angell, and I can tell you that was awkward enough and just a coincidence.)

But my favorite thing is — and always has been — that my birthday is a family celebration. There is a shared glow of anticipation about the day; it looms large on the calendar and we plan for months and weeks. When it finally arrives, we are all together. I am not religious, but the day feels sacred. The world is on pause, and for a moment, people do their best to embrace the idea of hope in a dark hour, grateful for the love they have and the many gifts they have been given.

So save your sympathy for the babies born on Dec. 26 or 27. “Let’s pack up the ornaments” is just no way to celebrate.