Happy re­turns

What’s it like shar­ing your birth­day week with Je­sus? Zara Wong re­flects on be­ing over­shad­owed by the fes­tive sea­son but also highlights some of the sur­pris­ing pos­i­tives of her cel­e­bra­tory day.

VOGUE Australia - - VOGUE VOICE - Zara Wong on her fourth birth­day.

It’s that mag­i­cal pe­riod of lan­guid days out in the sun dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son of Christ­mas and New Year’s Day, where lunchtime drinks turn into evening cock­tails, a time with­out the struc­ture of work that makes week­days and week­ends blur into one, and when we ask our­selves what day it is. It’s that amor­phous ‘closed-eyes-smile’ mass of time be­tween pub­lic hol­i­days … that’s when my birth­day is.

It’s fine. I’m used to it. Re­ally! Well, I haven’t known any­thing else, have I? I’m not un­ac­cus­tomed to be met with a sym­pa­thetic smile when asked when my birth­day is. Look, as I’ll quip af­ter­wards, it’s re­ally dif­fi­cult when you’re up against Je­sus’s birth­day and New Year’s Day. Some say that be­cause of this De­cem­ber ba­bies are in­her­ently at­ten­tion-starved, so how novel that I get to write a whole es­say about it now!

Peo­ple will make some com­mis­er­at­ing noise about the ir­ri­ta­tion of what it must like to re­ceive dou­ble presents. My mother even apol­o­gises and said she tried to keep me in as long as pos­si­ble so I could have been born at the start of the new year – where ben­e­fits in­clude be­ing the old­est in ath­letic heats, as my schools would or­gan­ise it by year of birth, but alas, I came early. A be­lated Christ­mas present, as my par­ents would re­mind me.

I’m wired to as­so­ciate any­thing cov­ered in Christ­mas wrap­ping pa­per as a po­ten­tial birth­day gift, even if the gift-giver pro­vides a half-hearted apol­ogy for out-of-sea­son­al­ity. They think they’re funny when they give you a Christ­mas card and write in­side: “Haha, sorry! This is all I had left at home! Merry Christ­mas and Happy Birth­day!” It’s not amus­ing: we’ve seen that joke be­fore.

The up­side is that it en­cour­ages me to be or­gan­ised and con­sci­en­tious when giv­ing presents to other De­cem­ber-Jan­uary friends. And to never buy their presents from Christ­mas sales. Not to be a scrooge and sound un­ap­pre­cia­tive, but boxed beauty gift sets are a dead give­away and we can def­i­nitely tell when our gift is a Christ­mas re-gift.

A study showed that De­cem­ber was the month where most peo­ple were “un­happy” to have their birth­day, and nearly a third of peo­ple with De­cem­ber birthdays (31 per cent) claim their spe­cial day fre­quently gets over­looked be­cause of the fes­tive sea­son, while 27 per cent moan about their presents be­ing wrapped in Christ­mas pa­per.

But each month has its down­sides. Fe­bru­ary/March birthdays have to deal with go­ing back to school, then there’s my brother’s birth­day in late June dur­ing the depths of Aus­tralian win­ter. At least my birth­day is when ev­ery­one is a cheer­ful mood, and in Aus­tralia, the weather is warm. But abroad too, it’s the time for snow and Christ­mas pud­ding and Christ­mas mar­kets – there’s too much fun to worry about a birth­day.

Be­cause De­cem­ber is a month so full of ex­cite­ment al­ready with the fes­tive sea­son even with­out my birth­day, when plan­ning our wed­ding I told my now-hus­band that un­der no cir­cum­stances could any­thing wed­ding-re­lated be in that month. As a bit of un­con­scious now-you­can-see-what-it’s-like-ism, our wed­ding an­niver­sary is now a week af­ter his own birth­day, which he grum­bles about.

It is a qui­eter time, as the re­ally ram­bunc­tious par­ties all hap­pen preChrist­mas. By the time my birth­day rolls around it’s more se­date as the ag­gres­sive so­cial­is­ing has come to an end. It’s the time to take stock, to recog­nise and sa­lute your true friends, the ones stand­ing by.

Restau­rants and cake shops are usu­ally closed, so I’ve be­come adept at host­ing my own birth­day par­ties. But a note for those with this in mind: you need to plan in ad­vance be­fore ev­ery­one heads out of town. It’s made me a pro­fi­cient cook be­cause I’ve had to make my own birth­day cake more of­ten than not, and at the very least I can choose ex­actly what I want for it. No, it’s not the Christ­mas log, it’s the one with can­dles on it – please re­move that holly leaf from my birth­day cake. My best friend’s birth­day is a week from mine but she is less kitchen­in­clined, al­though is a won­der­ful ar­ranger of the cheese plat­ter, and picks a great cham­pagne to match. We met be­cause we had to line up once in pri­mary school in or­der of our birthdays, and she came right af­ter me.

Be­ing a De­cem­ber baby has be­come a way to bond with other peo­ple born around that time. You don’t see, say, Oc­to­ber ba­bies get to­gether in quite the same way, do you? My fa­ther, my clos­est cousin and a hand­ful of friends all have birthdays within a week of me. We know which few restau­rants and bars are open at that time and are quick to sug­gest a quiet night out, bet­ter for long chats and re­flec­tion and to look back on the year; noth­ing too rau­cous at this time. Around our birthdays that afore­men­tioned best friend and I get to­gether to write down our goals for next year. (It’s a Capricorn thing – other friends have rolled their eyes and walked on by. Be­ing loud and self-cen­tred? With­out nam­ing spe­cific as­trol­ogy cat­e­gories, we’ll leave to the other star signs.)

Be­cause, ul­ti­mately, I’m re­ally, hon­estly fine about the fes­tive sea­son be­ing big­ger than me, be­cause it’s not about com­pet­ing with it, but go­ing with the flow. Birthdays are never re­ally about the birth­day per­son any­way, they’re about the cel­e­bra­tion, so there will never be a bet­ter and more mean­ing­ful time than De­cem­ber to cel­e­brate. It’s the sea­son to con­sider oth­ers, to bask in the com­pany of friends and fam­ily who show up and make it count. And, it gives me the rest of the year to re­mind ev­ery­one else about my birth­day!


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