The Christmas Birthday Blues

Happy birthday to Jesus, Annie Lennox, Jimmy Buffett, and...me.
IMAGE BOB MCKINNON

This year people around the world will spend almost a trillion dollars on gifts that will be given on my birthday. I will not be receiving them. You see, I have the distinction of being born on Christmas Day, which means that for each of my fifty plus birthdays, other people have opened presents—maybe even you.

When people find out I was born on Christmas, I am often the object of concern and pity, particularly from children. So let me get the typical questions out of the way:

Didn’t growing up with a birthday on Christmas suck?

Why, yes it did.

Did you get cheated out of presents?

Most definitely.

Did a lot of people give you one present that said ‘Happy Birthday/Merry Christmas’ on it?

Yes…and how dare you, Grandma?

How did you have birthday parties?

I didn’t. It seemed as if all my friends had other plans.

You got a cake though, right?

Actually, no, I did not. For reasons I cannot remember or understand, my mom always cooked a traditional Birthday Lasagna, which was served with all the other Christmas dinner fixings.

Were there at least candles on your Birthday Lasagna?

I believe you know the answer to that by now.

I'm not actually bitter, I swear. At a very early age, I learned not to focus on the obvious downsides, and instead find some kind of meaning from this cruel trick of birth.

Here's what I've got.

One: Being born on Christmas actually makes you feel kind of special. For reasons you can imagine, most people try not to give birth on Christmas. In fact, there are 30 to 40 percent fewer babies born on Christmas than on an average day. It’s a smaller, kind of exclusive club.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

I sometimes dream about the birthday party all us Christmas kids could throw together. Annie Lennox would lend her ethereal voice to the proceedings (a particularly yearning version of “Why?” feels appropriate). Jimmy Buffett could whip up a strong batch of margaritas, and Sir Isaac Newton, inconsolable about our lack of trust in science, could knock them back. Clara Barton would swing by to cut him off; it’s what she does. Humphrey Bogart would see me from across the room and yell, “Here’s looking at you, fellow Christmas kid.” (It’s our inside joke.) I’d commiserate with Kenny Stabler and Ricky Henderson about being Christmas babies and left-handed athletes. Lassie would run over, give a bark that I easily translate as "Yo, birthday twin," and lick my face. I’d get to talk to fellow bastard Jon Snow (Kit Harrington, 12/25/86!) and ask him what the hell was up with the Game of Thrones finale. I’d ask Justin Trudeau if he had a line on some property in Canada, just in case someone was looking to move in let’s say late 2024. Ryan Seacrest would, of course, be the host, and he’d do a wide-ranging interview with the surprise guest of honor, Jesus Christ.

I mean, how could it get any more special than that?

I have always embraced this quirky start date of my biography. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are part of what makes us us. My birth date has given me a good icebreaker, a great origin story, and made my life—and hopefully me—a little more interesting.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Recommended Videos
Merry Christmas! Oh and also Bob was born.
Photo by THE AUTHOR (WELL, TECHNICALLY THE AUTHOR'S PARENTS).

Two: For all my jokes about what I missed, I have also come to appreciate the sacrifices others have made for me.

Let’s start with the obvious. I was born on Christmas morning, and I have two older siblings. On the day I was born, my mother had to rush to the hospital in the middle of opening gifts. My poor brother was left to show off his new train set to our downstairs neighbor who was forced to watch him. Oh, and did I mention that I was an eleven pound baby and a breech birth? I’m shocked my mom even talks to me on Christmas.

Growing up, my siblings had to pause their Christmases for at least a few moments to recognize this elephant in the room. And while I got to eat cake and enjoy parties on their birthdays, they had to settle for eating my birthday lasagna too.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Every friend I’ve had and woman I’ve dated also had to make some kind of accommodation or squeeze my birthday into an already stressful holiday season. Even today, my wife and children put a hold on their Christmas happiness to recognize my special day. My children stop at our bedroom to come in and wish me a happy birthday before they let themselves peek under the tree (or so they tell me). After unloading their stockings and opening one or two gifts, we again stop and take the time to have a birthday breakfast made for me by my lovely wife. They do not complain. And neither do I; it’s not lasagna.

Throughout the day, people I love take time out of their own family celebrations to call, text or send happy birthday wishes. If I’m being honest, they remember my birthday more often than I remember theirs.

Three: Being born on Christmas has profoundly changed the way I see the act of giving and receiving gifts. It is a strange notion to grow up and know that you will, in all likelihood, only receive presents one day a year. Three hundred and sixty five days is a long time to wait in between gifts when you're a kid. The result is that I have come to truly appreciate what is given to me - even those gifts that I didn’t care for (roughly every sweater I’ve ever received).

If I’m being honest, they remember my birthday more often than I remember theirs.

I have spent more time watching other people open presents on my birthday than opening them myself. I’m fortunate that I get to see so many others, including those I love, so happy on my birthday. That right there is a gift.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Along the same lines, I have the privilege of giving other people gifts on my birthday. I’m not sure if it was born out of an appreciation for the sacrifices of others, the joy of seeing someone open something they love, or a selfish attempt to draw attention back to this birthday boy, but I have always tried to be especially thoughtful and grand in my own giving. Like, one year I handed out Mickey Mouse ears to everyone to announce we’d all be going to Disney World, a place my mother had wanted to visit since she was a child. She may have forgiven me that year.

I love the thoughtfulness of the handmade Christmas gift our children make us every year, and my wife has blown me away with some of her presents throughout our life together, but the best gift I get is just leaning back and seeing how happy my family is on this day. The look of sheer joy, excitement and contentment on their faces. I suspect many of us feel the same way, regardless of whether we were born on February 25th, July 25th, or December 25th.

Being born on Christmas Day has had its obvious drawbacks. But I love my birthday, not in spite of it falling on Christmas, but because of it. It's a special day marked by the sacrifices we make for each other and the joy that comes along with that. So go ahead, enjoy all of the presents you give and receive...on my birthday.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Maybe you’d even like to make a Birthday Lasagna. Just remember to leave out the candles.

FromEsquire US

Discover the best of culture, business, and style from Esquire Philippines. Visit Quento for more stories and subscribe to our YouTube channel for new videos. 

View More Articles About:
More Videos You Can Watch
About The Author
Bob McKinnon
Bob McKinnon writes the Moving Up Mondays newsletter, is host of the PBS podcast, Attribution with Bob McKinnon, and author of The NY Times bestselling children’s book, Three Little Engines.
View Other Articles From Bob
Latest Feed
Load More Articles
Connect With Us