The surprising benefits of sharing a birthday with Jesus.
The surprising benefits of sharing a birthday with Jesus
Ilove telling people I was born on December 24 — Christmas Eve. The reaction is always visceral, and oscillates somewhere on the spectrum between deeply sympathetic and profoundly apologetic. “It must be so hard,” people say, “not ever getting to celebrate on your ACTUAL birthday. I bet you get ripped off on presents, too!” I nod, and then impart a story or two about my lifetime of experience sharing a birthday with Baby Jesus.
Thing is, those stories are always awesome. In my experience, celebrating a birthday at Christmas is the easiest thing in the world, and it’s precisely because everyone ELSE thinks it’s such a big deal. If you ask me, it is — and has always been — a non-issue.
I was born at 8: 03 p. m. on Dec. 24. This means that, had I held out an extra three hours and 57 minutes, it would have been worse. ( Though with that being said, I was due in early January, so my eagerness to enter the world was my first in a lifetime of questionable decisions.) I’m not entirely certain whether, prior to my birth, my family kept any Christmas Eve traditions, but from the moment of my entry onto God’s green earth, all that was kiboshed: Christmas Eve, from 1986- present, has been all about me. Well, almost. For a while there still was the matter of attending Christmas Eve mass, which we did as a unit in order to avoid having to do so on Christmas Day. My family is Catholic and we’d go to the children’s liturgy, a special Dec. 24 mass meant to be fun for kids by virtue of the fact that youngsters under 13 were invited to the front of the church to listen to the priest’s slightly dumbed- down sermon, up close and personal.
The actual effect of this was a service that ran 90 minutes instead of 30, with a 20-minute interval smack in the middle, during which I’d be seated near the pulpit, staring off into the middle distance, thinking, “It’s still my birthday.”
But outside of this hour-and-a-half religious intermission, my birthday always seemed to be celebrated with extra fervour, as though my family was overcompensating for the possibility that the presence of a Christmas tree and the risk of receiving a birthday gift wrapped in snowflakes and Santas ( I actually do hate this) would make me feel any less loved. My experience is certainly not universal — I’ve spoken to other Christmas babies whose birthday, due to the constraints of finance or time, simply flies under the radar. My father, born on Dec. 17, is one of these people. And sure, I’ve never gone out for drinks on my “actual” birthday, since the entire 72-hour period comprising Christmas Day and the days immediately before and after it are generally dedicated to familial obligations. But when you think about it, how often does that actually happen? If your birthday lands on a weekend, sure; if it doesn’t, you usually pick the closest Friday or Saturday night on which everyone is reasonably available, which is precisely what we Christmas babies have always done.
As for the present thing — the question of whether or not I get ripped off, gift- wise — there are three facets to my answer. The first is that I am an adult, so I don’t care. The second is that my family is in the fortunate position of being able to buy gifts for one another on occasions when gift- giving is called for. And the friends with whom I am close enough with to exchange gifts around the holidays are also hyper-cognizant of the fact that I am actually owed two, which means — seeing as we are all Millennials with crushing student debt loads — they either try, or apologize.
So for me, this means that over the course of 24 hours, I get a bunch of stuff and then I don’t get any more stuff for a year. So the third part of my answer is that, since I’ve never known it to be any other way, it is not a cross I bear.
That’s really the bottom line about having a birthday that happens to coincide with a widely celebrated holiday: it’s the way it’s always been, so it’s difficult to feel deprived of “the proper way to celebrate a birthday” simply by virtue of observing the experiences of others.
Personally, the primary concern has always been getting people together, and even here I am dismissive of the notion that being born on or around Christmas means you don’t ever really know what it means to celebrate your birthday. You just have to be a bit more creative, and a lot more flexible, and not worry so much about being the centre of attention. When I was a kid, birthday parties were often organized for early December, or even sooner, to circumvent my friends’ holiday obligations. For the past seven years my friends and I have been throwing an annual potluck on the weekend closest to Christmas, which we’ve dubbed Birthmas — it’s a combined Christmas party for them and birthday party for me, and it is the best party of the year.
My birthday takes place right at the apex of an entire season of celebration. So in a way, I’ve kind of got it better. And the best part of all is that having Christmas Eve birthday is so distinctive, few people ever forget it.