This is a story about December birthdays and my mom.
This time of year, we hear grumblings from folks with December birthdays on how they “get cheated” because people roll their special day and Christmas together, so they don’t get a proper celebration.
If you’re one who doesn’t celebrate December gift-giving holidays, this may not be an issue, but apparently for the vast majority of folks who do – and who have December birthdays – this phenomenon is not only common but disturbing for them.
Apparently, the struggle is real, and I understand how and why it happens.
My perspective on this comes from first-hand accounts I’ve heard and read from those unlucky Sagittarians and Capricorns who were born in December, and often, their attitudes range from disappointed to downright bitter.
As someone with a December birthday (it’s not today, so cool your jets, and don’t think I’m sucking up for birthday wishes), and as someone brought up to celebrate Christmas and all its gift-giving power and pomp (I like to use the word “pomp” without its sibling “circumstance” because like so many December birthday people, it never gets its own time in the spotlight), I never experienced any mixing or blending of the two, and I’ll tell you why.
It was my mom.
In my family, I was a prime candidate for parental fatigue. Not only was I the fourth and last in line, but I’m also a full five years younger than the next oldest. Plus, I was (and remain) high-strung, which can wear on a parent: mind, body and soul. Finally, I grew up before the term “helicopter parent” was coined. In other words, while I never doubted my parents loved and supported me, like most celebrations or activities, birthdays in my family weren’t long, drawn-out affairs like so many are today.
No bounce houses, no unicycle-riding clowns, no huge surprises waiting in the yard under oversized bows, no outdoing the neighbors or friends and the celebrations they put on for their kids.
We’d get a card, a cake (Angel Food), a couple of gifts, a round of “Happy Birthday” sung in as many keys as there were people in the room, and then, we’d move on with our lives.
And that happened whether your birthday was in February, June, August or December. Make no mistake, we didn’t shirk our birthday responsibilities to one another, but on the other hand, we didn’t laud them as some grand achievement either, as though seeing the calendar turn on another year in the mid- to late-1900s was an unlikely victory in a primitive struggle for survival, with father warding off wild animals and intruders in the yard as Mom dabbed our foreheads with cold compresses to ward off “the fever.”
No, we had it pretty good – or at least I did – in my formative years, and frankly, I never gave the proximity of my birthday to Christmas a second thought. But later, when I did give it a second thought (because one can only endure the bitching and moaning of one’s astrological peers for so long before one gives in and takes part), my take on it was this: Why should people with December birthdays have a different experience than anyone else? Is there less love for one’s family that time of year? Is December so taxing (ironically, since it’s for so many considered a month of celebration) that we can’t put a bow on something, sing a little and take at least part of a day eat a cake in someone’s honor?
I get that folks spend more money this time of year, and things are often busier as we plan and prepare for guests or travel.
But why should that matter? It’s just a day (or in my case as a kid, part of a day) when your family and friends recognize that you exist (at minimum) and hopefully, celebrate that existence, both for you and for them because they’re glad you’re in their lives (assuming, of course, you’re not a complete a**hole, which changes everything).
A birthday is a birthday, regardless of when it falls. No more, no less.
This brings me back to my mom. (Please understand I’m not intentionally excluding my dad from all this, but to be honest, he had little to no involvement in planning, preparing or shopping for birthdays, though I believe he always liked the cake, and I will say, with great respect to the others in my family, he had the best singing voice as well).
For whatever reason, she never gave me cause to feel cheated for being born so close to Christmas. I, like my siblings before me, got the same treatment and level of recognition as anyone, born at any time, in any year. And for that, as well as for so many other things which would take me hours to list, I’m grateful to her.
Now, there is a group of folks (and I have family members and friends who fall into this category) who are exceptions. It’s those whose birthdays fall on the holiday or the eve of the holiday. I will say that while they get a built-in party every year, which you’d think would be a good thing, it’s not an exclusive fete, and birthdays often take a back seat. For those people, I’m sympathetic. (Face it, it can’t be easy to share a birthday with one’s Lord and Savior, or to share it with the anniversary of our country’s independence.)
So, what’s the point? Well, I’m not sure. All I know is that in recent years, I’ve heard a lot of grumbling from people who have birthdays this time of year, and I felt the need to address it. If you’re one of those folks, know this: in my humble opinion, there shouldn’t be any dilution of your birthday, or at least there shouldn’t have to be, and the people who plan, prepare and “throw” your birthday celebrations should know that.
You deserve all the rights and privileges afforded to anyone else who celebrates a birthday throughout the year, and I’ll stand up for you and advocate for your time in the spotlight.
Thing is, I can’t say I know how you feel because I never felt that way. And that, again, is thanks to my mom, someone who was – and remains – a person who thinks of others before herself, understands what’s important, never blows things out of proportion and always finds a way, even when times have been difficult: whether it’s February, June, August or December.
In other words, thanks Mom.
© 2021 David R. Haznaw