Birthdays. Like Christmas, they come but once a year.
They break up the calendar a little, and give you something to look forward to, right? You have drinks, catch up with old friends, overload your pals’ Facebook news feeds with ever-changing event invitations. Presents are bought and you’re showered with cards, right?
My birthday, however, is the ultimate failure in celebrations. The Dannii Minogue of my social calendar, my birthday is always overshadowed by its big sister, the one everybody loves – Christmas.
Yes, my birthday is two days before Christmas. Not even remarkable enough to be Christmas Eve or the actual day itself. Oh no. It’s the last ‘normal’ day before the big event. The world and his wife are Christmas shopping, arguing in Debenhams about what size pyjamas to buy Auntie Pat, no time even to stop and share a sprout and salami romano at Pizza Express.
There are work Christmas parties, big family get-togethers. People are on trains going home for Christmas. Save for a select, marvellous and self-sacrificing few, the world is too busy to help me celebrate my birthday.
And then there’s the question of presents. Oh wow, the presents. Or, historically, the lack thereof. Having a birthday at Christmas has ruined the idea of receiving gifts.
Christmas is an expensive time of year, everybody knows that, and the focus is on festive gifts; nobody needs the additional stress of trying to decide what to buy a child for its birthday. If I did get one, it would be offered to me as a ‘joint’ present, for both Christmas and birthday, an unacceptable decision.
Imagine turning up to a child’s birthday party in July, handing over a gift and telling them it was for Christmas too. There’d be mutiny. Carnage. You’d be eviscerated. And when the hell are they supposed to open it?
I didn’t want presents in particular, or anything expensive; it just would have been nice to have it acknowledged that my birthday and Christmas were, ARE, two separate events. Anyone who knows me well enough now knows not to do it at all, but it took a while to get the message across.
Almost as bad as having a birthday near Christmas is having people remind you and really exaggeratedly sympathise with you, as if you’ve just lost a leg, or have been permanently disfigured.
“Your birthday’s at Christmas? Oh, how AWFUL. That’s terrible. I bet you get just one present, don’t you? And nobody will ever remember it, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. Please could you hand me that large stick? I’d like to beat myself with it.”
One of the best things about a Christmas or New Year birthday is finding solidarity with others in a similar predicament – before having a pity contest, insisting that YOUR birthday is the worst one.
“But mine is Christmas Day – way worse. Nobody cares.”
“Bullshit. All your family are there and everyone is drunk. Mine’s January 2nd. Awful. Nobody wants to see alcohol ever again. Ever.”
“Nope, mine is the week BEFORE so everyone is at office parties or panicking getting their shopping done.”
“Look, screw you all. Mine is the worst one. Mine. MIIIIINE.”
With my birthday being so close to Christmas, I’m quite lucky if I even get a card, what with everyone being so busy (let’s gloss over the fact I’m possibly not a very nice person either). Birthday cards are difficult to find in December as it is, what with that big bad bullying cow Christmas elbowing its way into every stationer, bookstore and card shop, aggressively pushing aside the birthday cards and relegating them to one pitiful shelf, usually below the ‘In Sympathy’ notelets.
In the past, some people have found a genius way of getting round this by referencing my upcoming birthday in a Christmas card.” Happy Birthday, Happy Christmas, Happy New Year!” they’ll say. I’m grateful for the thought, and the wish itself, but come on. No, seriously, COME ON.
What I used to moon over the most was that I’d never known what it was like to have a birthday at any other time of the year. I’d never had that feeling of being special and the day being all about me me me, with no other massive event lurking in the shadows, wrapped in tinsel and drunk.
They say you never miss what you’ve never had, but that is NONSENSE. You can mourn the invisible, yearn for feelings you’ve never felt. I have absolutely, positively no idea what it is like to have a birthday like yours; it’s something I will never experience.
On the scale of problems to have, it’s pretty minor – as people are so fond of telling me when I dare to mention it – but it’s the birthday equivalent of getting married and having all of your guests turning up in a bridal outfit, year upon year. Friends have previously suggested ‘moving’ my birthday and celebrating it in the summer. But it’s not the same. It has to be on the day. That’s your day. It won’t work otherwise.
With no stopgap to make a dreadful year bearable, some years can be just 51 weeks of filler and then EVERYTHING happens in eight days, with my birthday, Christmas and New Year pummelling me mercilessly before leaving me dejected and bruised, facing January alone.
So it is when it is. The 23rd. A day I can never be where I’d like to be, celebrating it how I’d like. Overshadowed by duty and, of course, the big JC.
But it is time to move on. I’m finally at peace with it. Things aren’t going to change, and I almost enjoy the anonymity a Christmas birthday can bring. I don’t have to make big, showy birthday plans because nobody will have the time to attend anyway. I’m saved the embarrassment of people accepting invitations then not materialising. As my birthday happens when people are away working on their holiday weight, it’s generally forgotten I have them, ergo I don’t age.
Nobody can ever say “Oh, I remember your 30th; it was years ago”, because only four or five other people were there and they’ve all been silenced.
So I no longer envy the summer birthday parties, heaps of presents and raucous celebratory drinks. I still get to go to them, but I don’t have to entertain anyone, or worry about arrangements. The fewer cards drop through my door, the less I have to think about the advancing years.
I think I’ll leave all the adoration and attention to that other dude with the Christmas birthday. Looks like he needs it more than me.
So it’s all fine. It’s good. But potential parents, next time you’re feeling frisky toward the end of March, stop and think. Do you really want an embittered Christmas baby sulking at your dinner table for the next 18+ years?