A birth­day on Christ­mas

Old Per­li­can boy has two rea­sons to cel­e­brate on Christ­mas Day

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS HOL­I­DAYS Melissa.jenk­ins@tc.tc

Ai­den Barnes has a spe­cial birth date. He will turn six on Christ­mas Day. But a spe­cial birth­day tra­di­tion keeps him ex­cited about his big day, even more so than Christ­mas — his birth­day tree. With the help of mom, Christine, Ai­den and his whole fam­ily will al­ways pri­or­i­tize his birth­day.

The thought of start­ing off Christ­mas Day singing Happy Birth­day is prob­a­bly un­usual for most peo­ple.

But for the Barnes fam­ily in Old Per­li­can, it’s how they’ve started ev­ery Christ­mas for the past five, soon to be six, years.

The fam­ily, which con­sists of mom Christine, dad Jody, daugh­ter Emily, son An­drew and youngest child Ai­den, be­gan the tra­di­tion on Ai­den’s first birth­day, Christ­mas day.

Al­though Ai­den shares his birth­day with one of the big­gest hol­i­days in the world, Christine and Jody did not want that to be an is­sue. So they looked for ways to en­sure Ai­den’s birth­day would be just as im­por­tant to him as Emily and An­drew’s birth­days are to them.

“I was look­ing for a long time for some­thing we could do to make his day ex­tra spe­cial,” Christine told The Com­pass at their home ear­lier this month. “I didn’t want his birth­day to seem less im­por­tant be­cause it’s on Christ­mas.”

It was only af­ter think­ing long and hard that she de­cided to in­cor­po­rate a Christ­mas tra­di­tion into Ai­den’s spe­cial day – a tree. But not just any tree. Ai­den would get his own spe­cial birth­day tree.

Birth­day tree

His tree is set up each year in the fam­ily’s kitchen. There are no Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions on it. Rather, the fam­ily uses birth­day dec­o­ra­tions. It was de­cided to keep the tree as dif­fer­ent from a Christ­mas tree as pos­si­ble.

While chat­ting with The Com­pass, Ai­den kept re­peat­ing how much he wanted to start his tree.

“Can I dec­o­rate my birth­day tree now?” the fair-haired kinder­gartener asked his par­ents. Of course, the an­swer was yes. A bowl of con­struc­tion pa­per cutouts of the num­ber five with rib­bon at­tached was placed on the kitchen ta­ble, and Ai­den be­gan plac­ing them on the tree. The fives were blue, yel­low and or­ange, pri­mar­ily.

With some help from both mom and dad, Ai­den was able to fill the tree with a couple of birth­day ornaments, the fives and curled rib­bon.

“We try not to use red or green,” Christine ex­plained as she handed Ai­den a bun­dle of rib­bon.

The ea­ger Tri­con El­e­men­tary stu­dent be­gan to pull the rib­bons apart and throw them at the tree. As each piece stuck, Ai­den would let out a small cheer.

Emily and An­drew stood back, not touch­ing the tree. Af­ter all, it was Ai­den’s big tra­di­tion and he didn’t want any help. “No, I got it,” he said. Mom and dad both laughed.

An ex­tra spe­cial day

“When he wakes up Christ­mas morn­ing, all his presents are un­der that tree,” Christine ex­plained.

Many have asked over the years if it’s been a hin­drance for Ai­den’s birth­day to fall on Christ­mas. Many be­lieve his birth­day will be over­shad­owed by other tra­di­tions.

“We al­ways get th­ese neg­a­tive com­ments,” Christine said. “But I really want to make Ai­den feel like it’s not lost in Christ­mas.”

It’s not just the im­me­di­ate fam­ily that feels that way. Rain or shine, snow or wind, the ex­tended fam­ily al­ways stops by to cel­e­brate Ai­den’s birth­day.

“We’ve got really good fam­ily,” Christine said. “And it really, really means a lot that they’ll do that.”

The big­gest dif­fi­culty hasn’t been keep­ing Ai­den’s birth­day at the fore­front. It’s been been track­ing down birth­day dec­o­ra­tions dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son. But when they’re hard to find, the fam­ily will make their own, in­clud­ing the fives that were placed on the tree.

Peo­ple have asked the fam­ily how Ai­den feels about hav­ing his birth­day on Christ­mas. He sees no prob­lem with it.

“De­cem­ber 25th,” he proudly an­nounced when asked when his birth­day was.

A chalk­board is placed on the wall next to the back door that counts down the days un­til Ai­den’s birth­day. He helps change the num­ber daily, which keeps him ex­cited for his big day.

“We’ll sing happy birth­day a lot through­out the day so Ai­den doesn’t forget,” Christine said.

As he fin­ishes dec­o­rat­ing the tree, Ai­den fi­nally gets to stand back and look at it. His hands go up in the air as he yells, “Yay!”

The ex­cite­ment is con­ta­gious. Christine, Jody, Emily and An­drew all join him by his tree in ad­mi­ra­tion.

“It’s my birth­day tree,” Ai­den ex­plained.

PHO­TOS BY MELISSA JENK­INS/THE COM­PASS

Ai­den Barnes dec­o­rates his birth­day tree with pa­per cutouts of the num­ber five.

The Barnes fam­ily has a birth­day tree each year for youngest son Ai­den. His birth­day is on Christ­mas day. Mem­bers of the Barnes fam­ily are, from left, dad Jody, son An­drew, son Ai­den, daugh­ter Emily and mom Christine.

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