December 20, 2016
While you and yours were frittering away just another day of Christmas vacation — the days when you’re forcing your way through the leftovers, trying out your new gadgets and slippers and looking for some post-holiday deals — my fellow early Capricorns and I were celebrating our birthdays. The days around the 25th might just be Christmas Eve or Boxing Day to you, but they’re important to us — after all, no matter what form of celebration you subscribe to, you do only get one real birthday.
I’ve learned to avoid revealing my birthday if at all possible in casual conversation, because mentioning that I was born on December 26 almost always elicits pity, confusion or slack-jawed incomprehension. “I bet that must have been awful,” some cluck. “The day… after Christmas?” they ask, as though I had any choice in the matter. “Does that mean you get double presents?” some drool.
The reality of a Christmas birthday is pretty banal — if you’re lucky, it means you spend two to three full days in pajamas doing nothing but eating. On the negative side, it’s also generally true that a Christmas birthday means you cram all of your annual festivity and merriment into one long weekend — and that the number of occasions on which you can expect to get presents each year is pretty compressed. But there is one fun bonus: You get to be part of a select group of people who share in the experience. So, I polled some of my friends who also share Christmas birthdays — December 24, 25 and 26 — for their thoughts on the ol’ combined holiday. A surprising variety of attitudes and responses came about; we’re a diverse and wonderful group.
What are the best and worst parts of a near-Christmas birthday?
Sage (Dec. 24): The best part is that I almost always get to celebrate my birthday with family. Unless I move somewhere very far away, there is little to no risk of ever spending a birthday alone. Especially with aging grandparents and new cousins running around, it adds a level of festivity. The worst part, I think, is when people go out of their way to make sure everyone acknowledges that we’re celebrating a birthday and not just Christmas — the intention is good, but it tends to be pretty awkward.
Ann (Dec. 25): Aside from the obvious benefits — one, an annual concentrated dose of specialness as a kid, what with double presents; and two, meritorious efficiency as an adult, because friends and family already happen to be together and all we have to do is stick a candle in something and BOOM, I’ve been feted — my Christmas birthday is a source of confidence and comfort relative to a zombie apocalypse.
Per VampireUnderworld.com, “The Callicantzaros was a peculiar type of Greek vampire… related to the sanctity ascribed to Christian holy days at Christmas time. It was said that children born during the week between Christmas and New Years’ are considered unlucky. These children were described as feast-blasted and believed to be destined to become vampires after death.”
Some regular-birthday-having family members and friends of mine have questioned whether this would actually protect me given the apples-to-oranges relationship between zombies and vampires, I think they’re just envious. Also nervous.
Kaitlyn (Dec. 26): As an adult, it’s odd to have never had a real birthday party. I live in Brooklyn, but being from Minnesota of course I spend Christmas here every year. I get jealous of people who celebrate in the city, where they party with the people in their day-to-day lives and new friends they made that year, at a place they hang out on a regular basis — a celebration that’s reflective of the last year in your life. I’ve never had that! I do always get to be with family and my oldest friends who are, thankfully, still some of my favorite people. It makes me wish I could be with them on their birthdays in January and March.
Maggy (Dec. 24): The worst parts: it’s hard to celebrate outside of family Christmas stuff. People are crazy busy during pretty much all of December, so it’s never a great time to have ANOTHER party to go to. People forget about your birthday, as it’s a busy/otherwise celebratory time anyway. And you always have family obligations/often end up driving a lot. Best: when I was little, I thought the gathering was all for me. Plus all my relatives brought me presents, because they were for sure gonna see me on my birthday.
Alex (Dec. 26): I totally forgot about that. Your relatives cannot come over for Christmas without celebrating your birthday, too, so even your third-removed half-step-cousin is on the hook to give you a birthday gift. This was a nice bonus as a child. The hardest part for me as a kid was understanding why half to two-thirds of my friends couldn’t ever go to my party, even if it was something super-fun like sledding or bowling or skating. I just couldn’t comprehend that they had other family obligations on my birthday. Christmas is over, people!
Patrick (Dec. 26): As I get older, it seems that more and more people are around for the holidays, so I can’t complain. As a kid, it was a bummer not being able to really have a birthday party with school friends. Having get-togethers every day from the 23rd to the 26th is always really fun — it’s like a marathon of fun.
What, if anything, did your family do differently to celebrate your birthday?
Sage: There were a couple years growing up where I celebrated my half-birthday in June so that I could have a party with friends. That’s pretty much it.
Kaitlyn: My extended family brings my birthday presents to Christmas Eve and Christmas.
Maggy: Not much. Birthday wrapping paper. The only presents opened on Christmas Eve are birthday gifts. Santa presents are always Christmas morning. Most of the time, though not always, people remember a cake or to at least stick a candle in something. People in my life are pretty good at not doing the “one Christmas-birthday gift” thing.
Patrick: My family was always great about separating my birthday from Christmas. They’d always try to make the vibe on my birthday feel different than the rest of the holiday. We almost always wake up and do a big lunch out with my whole family, and still do that today. They’d make a point of not combining Christmas and birthday gifts.
What’s your response when people ask, “That must be awful, huh?”
Kaitlyn: EVERY TIME I show my ID I get that. It gets old. Then I feel like an asshole for not wanting to have another conversation about it. “Day after Christmas, huh?” And then, maybe: “Do you get less presents?”
Sage: It can be tough as a little kid but as an adult it’s not really a big deal.
Maggy: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ “It’s not great!” And then I usually tell them about being the designated driver on my 21st birthday at the family Christmas.
Patrick: When I was younger, I’d get “That must be awful” all the time. Selfishly, I would point out that all of my family would be in town for my birthday, which would mean more presents. But as an adult it’s nice to know that I’ll likely have work off on my birthday and will have a lot of time to hang out with people who are in town. It’s great.
Would you rather have your birthday as it is or some random day in June?
Kaitlyn: I always wished mine was June 15, like my brother’s.
Sage: Given the choice, I think I’d keep my birthday where it is. Childhood trauma and awkwardness aside, I love the magic of winter and the company of my fellow Capricorns — Eddie Vedder, Patti Smith, William Tyler, and of course Alex G.
Maggy: When I was younger, I probably would have said it would be better in June, so as to spread out the present-getting a bit. It’s hard to hold on for a whole year when you’re young. But it is what it is. l like Christmas time, so while it’s maybe not ideal, it’s okay.
Patrick: It’s hard to say. I really like being able to celebrate with everyone and I feel like a random day in June wouldn’t feel as special. When I was in elementary school, I shifted my birthday party to my half-birthday (June 26) for a few years, because I had never really had the invite-friends-over-style birthday party due to the date. It was fun. I’m sure it weirded some people out, but I liked doing it. My wife’s family actually stuck with that birthday date.
Alex: Hell no! December is life.