I recently celebrated a birthday…not a hugely memorable one…just another ordinary one, but precious because it was spent with family and friends and I enjoyed myself so much! Birthdays for me now are a mixed blessing. Happy that I have survived another year (especially considering my cancer scare last year) and sad that when I look at my physical self…I see an aging woman! Yuk…who is happy about that? And my birthday is in December…that was always sort of a problem for me.
When I was little, having a birthday in December was sometimes really fun and exciting. I thought people were putting up pretty lights and decorating just for me! Presents were everywhere and there were lots of jolly people rushing about! How fun, right? Well, no not exactly. When I was finally old enough to realize that all the celebrating was for Christmas….some other baby’s birthday…not me…I have to admit, it was a come down! Then I learned that I was not the only one who had a December Birthday. My best friend, Rachel’s birthday was in December…and another classmate…Kenny’s birthday was in December…and then (how had I forgotten?) my brother was born on the 17th, and cousin Larry was born on Christmas Day. Somehow, being a December kid was not so special.
As I grew older, Christmases seemed to get busier and more drawn out. Before I knew it, there was no gap between when Thanksgiving ended and Christmas began….and my birthday had always fallen in that gap…at least I had that one week all for my own….before the Christmas rush started….but no longer. Then we practically lost Thanksgiving…and started Christmas just after Halloween! Holy Cow…uh sorry, no religious pun intended. I was still eating Halloween Candy when the candy canes, sugar cookies, and hot chocolate started calling my name. Wow…with all that sugar abounding…
“Do you really need a birthday cake?” my mom asked
“I guess not, but can I at least take cupcakes to school?”
“A party, maybe?”
“If there’s time.”
Then my mom got this great idea….”Let’s celebrate your birthday in the summer time! You can have an ‘Unbirthday Party’…just like Alice in Wonderland…you know…” A Very Merry Unbirthday, to you…to you”. She actually sang. If you’ve ever heard my mother sing…you’d know this is not a pleasant experience.
“I guess” I said. So the following year, we had my birthday on June 7 (Instead of December 7). We celebrated at the public pool in our small town, then went back to my house for a picnic of lemonade, birthday cake, and burgers. I remember my ears crunching and sloshing as I ate the potato chips. It was a great party…but it did not feel like my birthday. Waiting a year and half for presents seemed kind of unfair to me, too.
I complained (cheeky kid!) and so we went back to December birthdays the follow year. (This time I got more presents and didn’t have to wait but 6 months! Hurray!) My mom got better at parties as I grew up. I remember a really fun party in the 7th grade – a Dance Party! It was at my home…we were teeny boppers (what is now called tweens) and I was just at that age when 45s were a big deal, and learning the twist was a must! I was completely boy crazy that year and I DIED because Terry Altman asked me to dance, and Ronnie Salmon asked me to go to the Boy Scout Skating Party….wow what a year! It was also the year I got my first bra from my mother for my birthday….and I accidentally opened it at the party and DIED of embarrassment! I DIED quite a few times that year.
The birthdays came and went. Some very memorable, some, not so much….but having them in December now is quite a luxury. My mom – who is 91 this year – still always sends me a little something and calls me on my day…and my Aunt Myrtis, whose son was born on Christmas Day the same year I was born…always calls me. And a dear friend, Shelby, whose birthday is also in December always remembers. I always appreciate those dear friends who take time out in this busiest season of the year to remember me….what a gift!
Those were fun birthdays to remember, but I really liked this year, too. My friends Sharon (yes another one) and Lucy took me to dinner on my actual birthday, and my daughter remembered me this year with a Christmas Tea at the local Tea House (cream scones to die for!) with my grandkids followed by an afternoon of spa wonderfulness with just her. After a cold stone facial, an exfoliating foot rub and massage, we topped it all off with having our toes painted with red sparkles! What fun! (And the spa treatment sure didn’t hurt this aging skin!) Now maybe it won’t be so hard to look in the mirror!
But every year I also remember another birthday. Even though December 25 is a made up day (like my summer unbirthday..some think Jesus was born in March sometime), I try not to lose track of the “reason for the season”. And this special season has long been celebrated around the world. Before Christ came, ancient peoples all over the world celebrated the return of the sun…the lengthening of the days…the return of the light. Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the lights. Christmas celebrates the Light of the World, which a new 4th Century Pope hoped would replace the Roman Holiday – Saturnalia, an ancient festival of light as a symbol of knowledge and truth, represented by the abundant presence of candles. Northern Celtics celebrated Yuletide (Gud Jul) with the solstice return of the Sun.
Whatever your reason for celebrating, may light and enlightenment be at the center of your celebration and the love of Christmas dwell in your heart.
See you next year!