It’s the holiday season and in addition to the thousand things on your to-do list, do you also have to plan a birthday party because your child has the misfortune of having a December birthday?
Do you wish you’d been just a little more or less “calculating” a few years back in your “family planning”? Of course, it’s entirely possible you and your child love the additional attention and fun a December birthday provides. As a Christmas baby myself, I’m here to share my dos and don’ts for how to best celebrate a birthday on or near a holiday. I picked up these tips commiserating with my December birthday compatriots over the years.
Do treat the December birthday like a “normal” birthday- at least for part of the day.
When we celebrate a birthday, most of us enjoy some combination of cake eating, song singing, and present opening. December birthdays warrant all of the same things. While only a special few of us actually have our birthdays on national holidays, we still want a birthday that feels like what other people get throughout the year.
This may mean you have to stop the usual holiday festivities for even just an hour to turn your focus to your birthday kid. Be sure to make the cake and decorations (including wrapping paper!) regular birthday themed for this hour unless you have explicit permission from the birthday kiddo to keep things holiday themed.
This leads me to my second tip, do find ways to distinguish the birthday from the holiday.
Keeping the decorations birthday oriented is an easy way to do this. My husband’s birthday falls the second week in December, so my mother-in-law always refrained from holiday decorating until after his birthday. This is a tradition we continue in our house today. Mostly. For example, we’ll buy a Christmas tree, but we won’t decorate it with ornaments until after we’ve celebrated his birthday.
Holding off on holiday decor is trickier the later your birthday falls in the month, of course. For me, we enjoy all the usual holiday decor and surprises in December, but my husband makes sure to make me a birthday cake on Christmas Day that will be decorated with birthday candles and not candy canes. Your kiddo, like me, will likely enjoy the holiday festivities as much as anyone does, but will appreciate the extra time and thought you take to make the birthday feel special too.
Do be flexible with the date you celebrate.
Your kid’s going to want a party with friends, but many of those friends will be booked for the month of December with holiday events and celebrations of their own. The closer to Christmas and New Year’s, the more likely they will be out of town too. My mom was always pretty good at planning my parties weeks in advance of my birthday when I was a kid, and I don’t remember missing more than a friend or two at my non-holiday themed birthday parties. My mom also always had us celebrate my birthday with my family on Christmas Eve, and I was the only kid who got to open presents.
Some families swear by the half-birthday celebration, but I would caution you against moving your kiddo’s December birthday to mid-June because, once again, families start to head out of town for vacations. If you are considering adopting a new date to celebrate away from the holidays, maybe just pick a random date and consistently celebrate it into the future.
Here’s a funny idea from Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson. Ask an adult to give your child their birthday. In 1891, Stevenson wrote a note to a bummed out girl who was born on Christmas Day “gifting” her with his birthday as he had “no further use for a birthday.” (You can see the letter for yourself at the Fairbanks Museum in Norwich!)
Finally, don’t give your child a combo birthday or holiday present!
Ugh, do I really have to explain the horribleness of giving someone a gift that is both a birthday and a Christmas gift? I don’t care if you or a relative are selecting a gift that is more expensive than you would ordinarily give because you’re combining the two gift-giving opportunities. It’s a dirty, rotten trick to a kid to offer them one gift instead of two. Kids with Hanukkah birthdays agree.