I thought it would be fun to have December babies when I was pregnant, and I still enjoy it. Unfortunately, studies show my children may not be so crazy about having their big days smashed between holidays. Because for my two children born in December, it means sending out invitations months in advance and keeping our fingers crossed that people remember their birthdays and are in town for their parties.
People with winter birthdays report being the most dissatisfied with their birth dates. The reasons are many. November and December birthdays have to share the spotlight with major holidays, and January babies receive the leftovers when the festivities have ended.
Birthday presents are often skipped or improvised because people are strapped for cash during this time of year, and gathering a group for anything besides holiday celebrations during this chaotic time is a challenge.
There's also the cold weather and shorter days that can cause moods to be low. Children who have birthdays during the winter months share their special time with sick season as well. It's possible that children planning on attending a birthday party in winter will be wiped out by the flu or a stomach virus before the big day even arrives. That leaves the birthday kid without a crew to celebrate with on the big day.
We learned early on that many things would be out of our control when it came to planning great birthdays for our kids if it involved anyone outside our home. Still, we've learned a few tricks along the way.
If a child has to have their big day smashed in between all the other big days, there are ways to make it work.
1. Details matter
Wrapping paper seems like a small thing, but it's not. When children receive birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper, it shows that the extra effort to differentiate between their birthday and other celebrations wasn't made. It's enough to bring the winter birthday resentment to the surface.
Wrap gifts in old newspaper if birthday wrapping paper can't be found, but do not give a child a birthday present bearing candy canes, elves, or snowmen. The same goes with decorations. Christmas or Thanksgiving decorations don't double as birthday décor.
2. Offer the half-birthday option
Not every child will be into this option because no one should have to celebrate their birthday six months away from the actual date. However, for those who are sick of being overlooked in the swirl of turkey dinners and twinkle lights, the half-birthday celebration can work.
A child can choose to celebrate their half birthday, giving winter babies the option to party at the pool or stay outside with their friends during the never-ending summer days. Parents can still offer a personal celebration on their actual birth date, but this takes the pressure off of trying to round up friends around the holidays.
3. Go way early or late on parties
Birthday the week of Thanksgiving? Do not choose the weekend after for the party. Birthday the week of Christmas? Do not try to party that week. Plan birthday parties for friends to attend away from any family or travel obligations, or prepare the birthday child to receive RSVPs all marked no.
On the actual day of a child's birthday, immediate family members can celebrate and make the day special. However, depending on others to be available around the holidays is a ticket to disappointment.
4. No dual giving
A good rule is if you wouldn't do it for a non-holiday birthday, don't do it. Neither kids nor adults like having their birthday and Christmas presents combined. They are separate holidays, and even if a child's birthday falls on the day of a particular holiday, he should receive gifts that are designated for the birthday. Otherwise, a child is celebrating two big events but receiving half the notice.
5. Don't overlook the twinkle lights
Efforts need to be made to separate birthdays from the holidays, but it's also important to give children choices as to how they celebrate. On my son's birthday last year, which falls on December 21st, we celebrated and then asked him how he wanted to end the night.
"Let's go check out the Christmas lights at the downtown square," he requested, so that's what we did.
Fake snow (this is Texas) fell as we ate snow cones (again, Texas is weird) and listened to a saxophonist play holiday tunes. It was an absolutely festive holiday end to a birthday, but it was what he wanted.
When children specifically request to celebrate in holiday fashion, let them take the lead. It's fun to walk around pretending that all the decorations and outside ice skating rinks have been built just for you and your big day.
Open conversation is key when trying to make a child's holiday birthday count. Let them air their complaints and help find creative ways to solve them. We can't offer them a redo at birth, but we can try to help them make the most of their holiday arrival.