It’s Christmas, Baby!
Oh, wait – that should read, “It’s a Christmas baby!” As in, born on Christmas. Which I was.
But it’s okay. It really is, because my parents were great about making sure I didn’t get shortchanged. Our typical Christmas started with me getting up at oh-dark-thirty to open my stocking stuffers. At 7, I was allowed to wake the rest of the family (I’m the youngest, and it’s my birthday, so naturally I’d be the first to wake up), at which time we’d all drag ourselves to the Christmas-tree room. While the presents were being distributed, Mom would put together her Christmas breakfast and bring it in to us. After all these years, the only thing I specifically remember about those breakfasts was that they included fresh-fruit cocktail made of grapefruits, apples and pears, with maraschino cherries mixed in, and all served in the half-grapefruit rinds that had been cut with pinking shears to have a fancy edge. She’d also cut strips of grapefruit rind and attach them to the halves with toothpicks to make handles.
Once all the Christmas presents were distributed to the recipients, we took turns opening them. Dad, who made lists of *everything*, would keep track of what we got and from whom, so that we could send appropriate thank-you notes to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends.
Opening the Christmas gifts usually took until about 8:30 or 9. Then it was time for my birthday gifts, which I also dutifully oohed and aahed over – and which Dad recorded for posterity. Then, for the rest of the day, we played with / admired / tripped over / tried not to break our presents. Dinner was around noon, and was always followed by a family-recipe raisin spice cake liberally covered with vanilla butter cream frosting. About the only thing I don’t remember ever having was an actual birthday party, but because everyone was celebrating Christmas, it didn’t seem like a big deal.
Mom and Dad also realized that a year is an awful long time for a youngster to wait for any presents, so for the first 8 – 10 years of my life, they also gave me a gift or two on my brother’s birthday (in mid-May).
Yes, I was a very lucky boy. I was also a very lucky man, because when my first wife and I combined our holiday traditions, it got even better! You see, her family’s gift-giving tradition was to exchange presents on Christmas Eve. We adopted that, and adapted it so that she and I exchanged our gifts on Christmas Eve, and we exchanged presents with the kids on Christmas morning. Again, around 9 AM, I would get my birthday presents.
Shortly after we moved to Tucson, her dad retired and he and her mom moved west to be near us. This meant that we went to their house on Christmas so the grandkids could get stuff from Gramma and Grandpa (and, of course, for the big dinner). Mom and I also exchanged presents with Gramma and Grandpa, and they also had some gifts for my birthday. So, as a young adult, I got presents for about a day and a half every year!
I have always felt very lucky to have been born on Christmas, rather than near the holiday. I have never had to work or go to school on my birthday. I have never felt that I got shortchanged in any way; in fact, I think my loved ones went overboard in making sure that I didn’t miss out on anything. I am very grateful to everyone – Mom and Dad and my in-laws, who are gone now; my ex-wife, with whom I still get along; my three lovely, talented and smart daughters (and their partners); and my brother and his family.
Nowadays, of course, I prefer experiences over things, and there again I’m very fortunate. This year, for the first time in 34 years, everyone in my family will be together for Christmas dinner. I hadn’t expected it, but events conspired and transpired such that my brother & sister-in-law will be here from New Hampshire; my niece and her husband are stationed here in Tucson; my nephew is just out of Squadron Officer School and has time to fly in for a couple of days; my youngest lives here in town; my oldest and her partner will be driving down from Phoenix; and my middle girl and her husband will be here from Chicagoland.
While being born on Christmas is statistically not much more or less probable than being born on any other day, the odds of having four people in one family (even an extended family!) with the same birthday would be, I think, rather low. Yet I am a member of one such extended family. Not only was I born on Christmas, but Toni’s nephew, her brother’s stepdaughter, and her cousin’s wife all share December 25 with me.
So, to all of you other Christmas babies out there, Happy Birthday!