My birthday is December 16, nine days before Christmas. My parents tried their best to keep my birthday and Christmas two separate occasions, but it was hard for the extended family and friends to understand why this was so important. On this, my 30th birthday, I finally understand why: It’s an identity issue.
People not born in the month of December don’t normally have gifts that count for both Christmas and their birthday, and most don’t have a Christmas tree as a backdrop at their birthday parties. Their birthdays are standalone special days.
I know I am not alone among people with December birthdays who sometimes feel shortchanged because our birthdays and Christmas get lumped together. I feel that it is very important to let a child’s birthday stand alone as its own special day. (Granted, if their birthday is actually on Christmas Eve or Day, this may be a bit trickier to accomplish.)
Make your child’s day special
Here are three suggestions for parents of December babies, from someone who has a December birthday.
1) No “joint birthday-Christmas gifts.” I was often given a gift and told that it was bigger and so therefore it covered my birthday and Christmas — a joint gift. However, when my younger sibling received the same exact gift and then received a separate gift for her June birthday, I couldn’t help but feel I was getting the short end of the stick. If you wouldn’t give a gift to a child with a June birthday and tell her it covered Christmas and her birthday, then in my opinion, it’s not fair to do this to a child with a December birthday either.
2) Delay setting up the Christmas tree or decorating until after the child’s birthday. Growing up, the earliest my family would set up our tree was after birthday cake on my actual birthday. Sometimes this was before my party with friends, but as long as I was comfortable with the tree being there, that was most important. Talk to your child about what is important to them; it really will mean the world to them. If your child’s birthday is on Christmas Eve or Day, perhaps holiday gifts can be delayed until Boxing Day (December 26).
3) Use different wrapping paper for birthday gifts and Christmas gifts. This may sound silly to you, but to a child who receives their birthday gifts with Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer paper, it can be a big deal. It’s important for a child to know that their birthday is special and unique, and this small detail shows that you care enough to differentiate their birthday gift from their Christmas gift.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em
That said, there are many wonderful things about this holiday season that can be shared on a child’s birthday, or even be activities at a child’s birthday party, if they wish. Here are a few holiday-themed birthday party suggestions:
- Cookie decorating/baking: Bake sugar cookies in the shape of gingerbread men and decorate them. Let each child’s creativity shine.
- Ornament decorating/creating: At one of my favorite childhood birthday parties, we took fabric ornaments and used glue to add beads to decorate them. I treasure the memory. My parents still have these ornaments and use them every year.
- Gingerbread house building: Each child can create their own stand alone gingerbread house, or this can be a team effort to create a gingerbread village.
- Christmas caroling: As a teen, my friends and I went door to door on my birthday doing what I loved best, singing our hearts out, laughing, and collecting donations for the local food pantry.
- Holiday movie night: If your child’s favorite movie happens to be a holiday one, this is a great theme idea. My favorite book growing up was The Polar Express. Even though I was 20 when the movie came out, I spent my 20th birthday in an IMAX movie theater with a large group of friends watching it.
All this said, I actually hoped my children would have December birthdays. (But I was unsuccessful on both counts as they were surprise babies, born in January and April.)
Why would I wish a December birthday on my child? Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers shows that children who are the oldest in their grade have a distinct advantage; they are among the most mature, and they are able to perform better academically as a result. In New York State, where I grew up and thought I would raise my kids, the school-year cutoff was December 1. I was always one of the oldest kids in my class, and I did very well in school. I hoped to pass this advantage on to my kids. But since school-year cutoffs vary around the country, leaving New York meant leaving that plan behind.
I’m glad we are in South Carolina, though; today, as I turn 30, I am finally enjoying being able to wear a gorgeous outfit on my birthday and not have to layer it over thermal underwear and with a ski jacket on top of it.
Do you have a December birthday, or do you have a child born in December? How do you handle it when birthdays coincide with winter holidays?