Let me tell you something that happens to me regularly: I hand over my driver’s license to somebody — maybe the receptionist at a new doctor’s office, or the clerk at the liquor store (though that doesn’t happen as often as it used to, I’m sorry to say). They look at the birth date, do a double-take, and apologize. Because my birthday is Christmas Eve, and everybody assumes I got a raw deal.
I’ll admit, I was a little pouty about the whole thing as a kid. I had two birthday parties over the course of my childhood: one when I turned five, at a McDonalds, and the other was actually at Halloween, with another Christmas baby. (Both were great, to be clear.) My mom always made a point of carving out a few hours totally separate from Christmas and dedicating them to my birthday, but the simple fact of the matter is that the gravitational pull of Christmas swallows any birthday within about a week and a half of the Big Day, and that’s a little disappointing when you’re 7.
But as an adult? I absolutely love it.
Even when I have to work, nobody’s expecting me to give 100 percent, because nobody else feels like giving it their all, either. It would be different if I worked in medicine or retail, yes, but there are very few emergencies on my corner of the Internet at 1pm on December 24.
And while America goes absolutely way too overboard on Christmas, there is something nice about celebrating your birthday at a time when everything is decorated with brightly colored lights and there’s festive music everywhere. I just happen to associate birthday feelings with red and green rather than, say, pink and glitter. I even enjoy it, at this point: I like a grocery store cake, and I want one of the ones with Christmasy red flowers, because that’s what I’m accustomed to. For some people, birthday means funfetti; for me, it means poinsettias. The association is too tightly wound to come undone, and I wouldn’t unwind it even if I could. I can’t really even imagine having a birthday on a random Tuesday or, God forbid, Tax Day.
More importantly, at Christmas, there’s basically a social expectation you will spend several days in sweatpants, on the couch, not leaving the house, surrounded by the messes nobody feels like cleaning up, including you. And I know this will only become more true as my kid ages. I picture us a decade down the road, everybody melting into the furniture, halfway through one of the new books we gave each other. On the back side of 35, that’s pretty much my ideal week generally.
Not to mention Christmas is the one time a year that I eat several of my favorite foods — specifically cornbread dressing, gravy, ham, sweet potato and squash casserole, and pecan pie. If my birthday was in July, I wouldn’t order an entire Honeybaked Ham (even though you can TECHNICALLY order them any day of the year, I’m pretty sure.) But I am certainly happy to spend the entire week after my birthday eating giant slabs of the stuff, followed by giant slabs of leftover birthday cake.
Now, if I were actually born on Christmas Day, I might feel different. But my mom’s efforts to make my birthday feel like my birthday basically worked. Sure, it’s all rolled up as part of the holiday season — but to me, it feels like my birthday has eaten Christmas at least as much as Christmas has eaten my birthday.
Now that I’m a parent, I admit that I spend a lot more of my birthday in a mild-to-moderate frenzy, making sure that Christmas is “done” for my own kid. But honestly — and not to make light of the fact that the holiday season is yet another moment of massive out-of-balance labor for moms to make things “special” — I don’t even mind that. There’s a built-in break where I get to be a kid again myself, and everybody has to take 15 minutes to celebrate yours truly to a degree that’s fun rather than uncomfortable and awkward, and then I get my choice of cake and ice cream. And honestly, I wish that for everybody. (Or at least, every mom.)
Kelly Faircloth is the executive editor at Scary Mommy, where she commissions freelance pieces; if you’ve got a story you’d like to share, pitch her here! She’d love to hear from you.
Previously, Kelly worked at Jezebel.com, where she was a senior editor and also wrote about royal gossip and romance novels, along with body image and history. She grew up in Georgia between a river and a railroad, and she has a lot of questions about the world-building in Paw Patrol.