Today is my birthday. When people find that out, their first reaction is almost always the same.
“Man. You must get ripped off on gifts.”
The second reaction, usually at top volume and with lots of false cheer: “Christmas baby!”
Yes. I am a Christmas baby. No, I do not get ripped off on gifts. (Thanks, Mom and Dad and the rest of my family for never giving me the dreaded “joint gift” — except for once, a stereo when I was 16, wrapped in both Christmas and birthday paper.)
Recently at work, I was half-bragging about, half-lamenting the day I was born. My editors didn’t remember us ever doing a story about people born on Christmas, so I volunteered to write one.
After all, I have 35 years of experience.
I set out to find others who shared my birthday — and Jesus’ too. I found three of varying ages.
And I called my mom to ask her about the night I was born.
Two weeks before my arrival, my parents had just moved into the house where I grew up. My parents were wrapping presents on Christmas Eve and getting things ready for the holiday, and Mom said as soon as she went to bed she thought she might be going into labor. A couple hours later she was sure, so my parents drove to the hospital. It was after midnight.
My dad wasn’t allowed in the delivery room with my mom because he had a cold, so my mom did her Lamaze breathing — at the time a new fad for pregnant women — by herself.
“I didn’t know if you were going to be a girl or a boy for sure,” she said. “But I knew in my head you were a girl.”
She delivered in about an hour, and I was born at 5:52 a.m. on Christmas morning in 1977.
“It was cold and snowy and windy,” she said, “but it was the best Christmas gift I ever got.”
They celebrated Christmas a week later, Mom said, since they missed the actual day.
In the photo of me taken at the hospital, I am covered with what looks like a blue and red package. Mom said they made all the babies born that day look like gifts in their photos.
My parents were always great about giving me a birthday party on a day that wasn’t Christmas and making sure I had a day that really was “all about me.” Aside from that stereo, I never got any joint presents when I was a kid, instead getting one batch of birthday gifts and a second batch of Christmas gifts on two days. I remember one year I awoke to a birthday balloon my mom had tied to my seat at the kitchen counter.
The first fellow Christmas baby I talked to was Maggie Brekke, a Westside High School student, who turns 17 today. Happy birthday, Maggie!
“I don’t like it at all,” she told me. “When everyone else has their birthday, it’s all about them and stuff. It’s their day. When it’s also Christmas you have to share it with every other child in the world.”
She’s right. Everyone gets gifts on Christmas, not just the kid with the birthday.
Small things like that mean a lot when you share your birthday “with every other child in the world.”
“Last year,” Maggie told me, “I was at my dad’s house with his wife and my sister and two close friends and they brought out a little birthday cake and a present for me on Christmas. I almost started crying.”
Maggie and I lamented the fact that when your birthday is on Christmas, no one is on Facebook, so you don’t get that onslaught of messages everyone else gets. And though it’s highly unlikely you will have to work on your birthday, you also don’t usually get a party on your actual day.
Sean Kelly, an Omaha photographer, turns 40 today. Happy birthday, Sean!
“I never really had a birthday party on my actual birthday,” Sean said. (Me neither.) “But when I turned 30, my then-girlfriend threw me a surprise birthday party a couple weeks before Christmas, and that was really cool. And then I ended up marrying her.”
Gene Brake, the CEO for Home Services of Nebraska in Lincoln, turns 61 today. Happy birthday, Gene!
When Gene was growing up, he celebrated on his half birthday, June 25.
“No one comes to a kid’s birthday on Christmas, so on June 25 all my friends would come and there was cake and presents,” he said. “It was a great tradition.”
Back to those joint gifts.
“I have received a lot of ‘Happy-Birthday-Merry-Christmas’ gifts over the years,” Gene said. “Don’t like it.”
Historically, I have been in his camp, even though I think I could count the joint presents I’ve received throughout my life on one hand. But as I got older, I realized that if I let my husband buy me a “joint gift,” I could ask for something that cost twice as much. Yeah, I know, I’m totally working the system. Thankfully, he’s pretty nice about it.
Maggie said she couldn’t remember ever getting a two-for-one gift, and Sean said he hasn’t gotten one, either.
“People do always ask me if I get shorted on gifts,” Sean said. “I wouldn’t know any different. How would I know?”
That’s a fair point. I wouldn’t really know, either.
All of us Christmas babies will be with our parents and grandparents and siblings and kids and grandkids today.
Gene will shuttle between family Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, and spend the afternoon with his late wife’s family. Sean, his wife and two sons, ages 3 and 4, will get together with Sean’s dad and brother. He said he doesn’t know if his wife is planning another surprise for his 40th birthday.
“If she is, she’s hiding it really well.”
Maggie will be with her mom on Christmas Eve and her dad on Christmas Day. I’ll be in Omaha today with my family, then leaving to celebrate with my husband’s family in Red Cloud, Neb., over the weekend.
“Usually on Christmas Day, I don’t really want to talk about my birthday,” Maggie said. “Christmas is about everyone.”
“I don’t think I get as excited over Christmas as people who aren’t Christmas babies.”
But this story isn’t about everyone. It’s about those select few who share a birthday with everyone else’s favorite holiday.
Over the years, I’ve come to really like my Christmas baby status. It makes me special. Maggie agreed. She said she loves telling people that her birthday is also Christmas Day.
It’s special. But it takes some getting used to.
“I don’t know how to say this in a politically correct way,” Gene said, chuckling. “But would I recommend having a Christmas baby? Probably not.”
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