I’ve come to expect a certain kind of response when I tell someone my birthday: a sympathetic frown, a pat on the shoulder, a few lighthearted words of support. That’s because I was born on Dec. 24, and everyone knows—or thinks they know—what a bummer having a birthday on or near Christmas must be. This view was articulated emphatically on this week’s episode of the ABC comedy Happy Endings, in which we learned that Jane’s real birthday is on Christmas Day. Jane (Eliza Coupe) has been pretending her birthday is on Jul. 16 for decades—she even carries around a fake ID bearing the summer date—because “when your birthday is on Christmas, you get completely forgotten about.”
I’m here to tell you that this claim is ludicrous. Having a Christmas birthday is awesome.
Think, for a moment, about how you spent your birthday over the past few years. I’m guessing it involved going to work as usual—where, if they happened to remember your special day at all, your co-workers probably presented you with some dry cupcakes or maybe serenaded you unenthusiastically with an off-key “Happy Birthday.” After work, maybe you went out to dinner with friends who didn’t really want to be there. Now let me tell you how I spent mine: I slept in (in my superlatively comforting childhood bedroom), then I went for a leisurely run and did a little yoga. I whipped up a batch of Melissa Clark’s Butterscotch Scotch Eggnog, which I sipped throughout the afternoon. I caught up with a few of the people I love most in the world over sugar-crusted slices of stollen. I periodically opened a present, and I frequently enjoyed the small thrill of receiving well wishes from far-flung acquaintances on Facebook.
In other words, being a Christmas baby means you really can do whatever you want on your birthday. Many employers dismiss people early on Christmas Eve, or don’t ask them to come in at all, and nearly everyone gets Christmas itself off from work. (Even Ebenezer Scrooge gave Bob Cratchit the day off. Then again, capitalism has become more heartless since Dickens’ era.) And if you are a tot, being a late-December baby means never having to go to school on your birthday.
But what about presents? I hear all the anxious materialists out there asking. On Happy Endings, Jane uses the term “Christmas-birthday combo gift” to describe her parents’ half-hearted attempts at recognizing her birthday when she was a kid. She recalls a particularly traumatic year her parents gave her an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas and a pack of batteries for her birthday. This definitely sounds like a crummy gift (especially since Easy-Bake Ovens don’t run on batteries). But it doesn’t jibe with what I know about parents, who, in my experience, usually (usually) want their children to feel loved and appreciated. I don’t want to get into a pissing contest with a fictional character, but my parents never had any trouble buying me a few more toys and sweaters than they bought my sister, and wrapping them in balloon-printed rather than holly-festooned wrapping paper. This is a question of ratios, not means; moms and dads can allocate presents fairly regardless of their budget. Anyone whose parents are unwilling to make such a token gesture at recognizing their child’s birthday has bigger problems than their date of birth.
The best thing about having a Christmas birthday, though, is not the glut of presents but the glut of festiveness. I never have to lift a finger to create a celebratory atmosphere on my birthday—everyone else does all the work for me. There are lights, decorations, and cheerful music everywhere, and the weeks leading up to the big day are chockablock with spirited parties that I can emotionally mooch off of. For the indolent, among whom I count myself, having a Christmas birthday is the best-case scenario: maximum merriment for minimum effort. (Hijacking those parties by announcing that your birthday is coming up is optional; whether you go this route will depend on whether your impending new age brings you pleasure or dread.)
I realize that gloating about my superior birthday fortune is a little rude, like talking about your high metabolism or thick, luxurious hair. It’s not as though there’s anything you can do to become more like me in this regard. (Although if you were planning to conceive anytime soon, might I suggest waiting till early April for your future offspring’s sake?) But I hope setting the record straight about the joys of having been born on Christmas Eve will limit the amount of furrowed brows and consoling comments we Christmas babies get in the future. Save your pity for the poor schmoes who actually have to put work into making their birthdays feel special.
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