December Birthdays

Take it from someone who knows: it sucks to have a mid-to-late December birthday.

Mine happens to fall exactly one week before Christmas.

Three days before Winter Solstice, the shortest, darkest day of the year.

Like many with birthdays so close to Christmas, I grew up hearing, “We got you something really special, so we’re combining your birthday and Christmas gifts. You can open it on Christmas morning.”

Oh. How fun.

Although, the year I was in seventh grade, that combined gift was contact lenses. You can bet I didn’t whine about that.

Grandparents, living in Kansas, would send me a little birthday money each year. What would I do with it? Spend it on Christmas presents for my older brothers. At that time of the year it seemed selfish to keep it for myself.

I don’t remember any birthday parties with friends invited over. I was told people were too busy with the holidays, and often school had already let out by the time of my birthday. Family-only celebrations would have to do.

In an effort to make my day special, my father declared that my birthday was the day we’d go choose and then decorate our Christmas tree.

He meant well.

It could have been worse. I could have been born on December 25th or 31st.

As an introvert, reaching adulthood meant the celebration issue only got worse. It’s “the holidays” and employers, neighbors, family and friends are hosting parties. So many fucking parties. I didn’t learn to say “Thanks, but I’m busy that day” until I was in my fifties, when I fully embraced the fact that I am an introvert.

As I prepared for a party, this is the scene I invariably imagined:

Saturnalia, painting by Antoine Callet, 1783. Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honor of the god Saturn, held December 17-23. Saturnalia may have influenced some of the customs associated with later midwinter celebrations in western Europe, particularly traditions associated with Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and Epiphany. December 19 was a day of gift-giving.

Don’t misunderstand. I almost always enjoyed the parties I attended. But for introverts, so many parties crammed into the space of two-to-three weeks, all of that small talk and noise and being around people, often people you don’t know or really want to get to know, is exhausting.

An exhausted me is a cranky me.

I began hating my birthday because I associated it with all that busy-ness and forced frivolity. I got tired of pretending I was enjoying it all. Boyfriends insisted on taking me out to dinner and/or a (holiday-themed) show on my birthday, adding to the long list of social engagements I felt obligated to participate in because boyfriends would look crushed if I said I’d really rather just stay home. What an ungrateful bitch, eh?

For a few years in my early thirties, I tried disappearing, doing something I enjoyed. I would spend the week of my birthday and Christmas at a little ski resort in British Columbia. It was heaven.

One year I went to Hawaii. That was pretty heavenly as well.

The other reason I’ve always hated my birthday is that, for some reason, really shitting things happen that day. The list is long, but the two most vivid and life-altering examples are (1) my mother kicking my father out of the house, and their marriage, on the eve of my 17th birthday, the night he returned from a business trip, and (2) a friend committed suicide a few hours after she stopped by unannounced to see if I wanted to go to breakfast, but I was loading a sick dog into my car to take to the vet and declined.

Talk about guilt, all associated with my birthday. A dark cloud hangs over the date.

Oh, and I experienced my first hot flash on my 44th birthday, while out to dinner at an expensive restaurant for an office holiday party, and it was a doozy. How fun!

For years, I soldiered on, plastering a fake smile on my face as I attended one holiday and/or birthday event after another.

Ultimately, my solution to all that angst and inability to say no was moving to Idaho. Finally, I was far enough away from family that I could justifiably say I wasn’t going to risk terrible driving conditions to visit over the holidays (which in my family, by definition, included my birthday). I didn’t know a soul when I moved here, so no one knew when my birthday was and I kept mum as I met people. (Facebook has ruined that secret, alerting all my friends when my it’s my birthday, but I love getting that sort of quick and brief birthday greeting, no obligations/expectations, no face time required.) I finally got to celebrate my birthday in peace and quiet, doing what I wanted to do. Or nothing. Lots of nothing.

It was August 2008 when I adopted an Australian shepherd from a rescue. I named him Finn MacCool, after the Irish legendary figure “who ran after adventure with dogged persistence.” Since his actual birth date was unknown, I decided to give Finn mine, as his probable age meant he was born in the winter. Easy to remember, and now I always have something happy to celebrate on December 18th that has nothing to do with me.

Finn MacCool on a snowy run in the mountains, March 11, 2019.

Happy 12th birthday, Finn MacCool! You’ve brought sunshine and happiness into my life since the day I met you, and you’ve been a fabulous big brother to Conall.

Ironically, Conall’s birthday was earlier this month, on the fifth. By my fiat, Finn has a December birthday. That makes us a December pack, and that makes me happy.

Happy holidays to y’all. If any of you have December birthdays, well, you have my sympathy and I hope you’ve found ways to make it your day.

Feature image: Winter Solstice sunset at Stonehenge, 1980s.

24 thoughts on “December Birthdays”

    1. Et tu, River? I hear you, I prefer to not do any actual celebrating, especially in a month that’s already so BUSY. Except…a couple weeks ago a friend got a bottle of chocolate wine (huh?) at a gift exchange. She recently quit drinking wine (oh, the horror!), and gave me several bottles to avoid temptation at home, including the chocolate stuff. I’ll be uncorking that baby later tonight, in celebration. Might be pouring it down the drain after a swig, but maybe, just maybe, it’ll be good 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Happy Birthday to you and Finn! I feel your pain. My birthday is on the 20th. Except for my parents and my SO at the time, I always got Bday/Xmas combination presents. I never had a party for just my birthday, it was always combined with some holiday party where they half assed mentioned it was my birthday. The older I got the more I decided I really didn’t want the party anyway. Most of the time when my wife asks what I want to do for my birthday, I’ll tell her I want to grill some steaks and scallops at home and maybe see what kind of movie we can rent. This year my birthday happens to coincide with the release of the last Star Wars film so that’s what I’m doing this time.

    SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT! – If you want to see my attitude towards family holiday gatherings read this:

    https://www.justasmallcog.com/2018/01/10/merry-christmas-happy-new-year-now-get-the-fuck-out/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! And yes, your pain is even greater than mine; so sorry! Good call, gifting yourself the premier of the latest Star Wars film; hope it’s great.
      Your story from last January is hilarious! Love the opening meme and the title. How on earth did you survive for TWO WEEKS without killing someone? As for the non-dog-loving relatives, I would have offered them wire crates to stay in – in the garage – if they didn’t enjoy mingling with dogs inside. PS: Happy birthday, early 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! I don’t know how I survived those two weeks without someone going to jail. As far as the non dog loving relatives, I was ready to chunk them out into the snow. The garage would be too good.

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  2. Cool Stonehenge photo. I’ve never seen a picture of Stonehenge doing its thing. Happy birthday. For a while I had an employee whose birthday was Dec 23. I always made sure I took her out to lunch for her birthday and no other reason. Her favorite line: My birthday is a rip-off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought the photo was cool, too. Made me think it would be fun to witness someday, but then I saw all the people in the photo and thought otherwise. Thanks for the birthday wish – those are always welcome! And good on you for treating your employee’s birthday like a birthday; a thoughtful gesture I’m sure she appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Two of my favorite people — my stepson being one — share your birthday, so I wish you and Finn MacCool a happy day and a snowy ramble.

    My birthday is a week after New Years so I know what you go through/went through. Every once in a while the guilt would get to my family and I’d get a GREAT birthday present, but usually, like you, my Christmas and birthday presents were combined. And I got “Everyone’s so sick of celebrating. Too bad about your birthday.”

    I also understand the introvert thing — I think I only went to one office party and it was such a cliché, even coming down to my boss hitting on me. I went home after one beer (sleepy and ready for bed) and several hours later some friends showed up to take me out. I went, to my regret… Social people are so hard to understand. 😉 That was the last forced Christmas party I ever attended.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah, you can relate to holiday birthdays. Sorry. Sounds like the 18th is at least an auspicious date for birthdays in your life 🙂 And office parties? Awful. People cut loose and act stupid, forgetting that it’s their coworkers watching, suffering, and remembering. Too often my birthday fell on the same day as an office or professional function; those were the worst and mostly I made excuses. The simple words “No thanks” – without an excuse – are so liberating, wish I’d used them more often much earlier, but better late than never!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I applaud how you changed things up on this whole birthday thing. Even if I still feel obliged to wish you a happy one- tradition and all that jazz. And to Finn MacCool as well, who is a natural for the camera.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Happy Birthday, Finn MacCool! And Happy Birthday, Rebecca, too!

    My birthday is perfectly situated in late June. Half a year is about Christmas, the other half about me. 😉 Although, if you read my blog, aptly named after me (twice), I tend to make most things about me, anyway. 😁

    But when I don’t, it’s all about Mrs C (April birth), Marvel (February baby), Ludo, and Moxie. Appropriately enough, Ludo was born on June 28th, one day before my own birthday, and Moxie was born December 27th, two days after Christmas. Every month and dog and wife and Tom is special, but those are a few of my favorite things. 🙂

    Bring back Saturnalia!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Tom!
      Nice job spreading the birthdays across the year. For awhile I convinced my family to celebrate my birthday two months later – mid-February – and that was nice.
      I always envied people with June birthdays.
      Happy Solstice/Saturnalia!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My son was born January 1. My wife is in labor Dec. 31 and being a lawyer and a Scot I am thinking tax exemption; claim a deduction without any of the cost!

    She says she is in pain. But I know from experience if she starts taking meds it will slow things down. This is our third child and the first two were expensive. “What about my pain?” I thought, but instead summoned the doctor.

    And so I saw the sweep hand cross the 12 for the last time that year, and John was born 90 minutes later. Johnny Come Lately, my mother called him.

    Cheer up Rebecca, you came early enough for your Dad. And remember, Jimmy Buffett was born on Christmas Day and look how well that turned out.

    And happy belated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least Johnny Come Lately (your mother had a sense of humor!) can roll New Years Eve celebrations into his birthday (assuming he enjoys staying up that late), getting an early start on his birthday celebrations.
      Good point about Jimmy Buffett.
      Thanks 🙂

      Like

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