Those of us with babies born near Christmas know
the dual emotion: thrilled to be pregnant, but not so thrilled that
an already stressful time of year is only going to get busier.
Like most parents, I promised myself that I wouldn't let
my child's birthday get swept into the tidal wave of the holiday
season. It would somehow remain separate and unique and her own
magical day. And for the most part, it has.
There are plenty of families out there in the same
situation, and while no solution is perfect, there tends to be a
viable solution for each family. Sometimes it just takes a while to
figure out which one is best for you.
One popular choice is to celebrate the birthday as close
to the actual day as possible and ignore the holiday. If they like
Star Wars, then have a Star Wars-themed party. It takes some
advance planning and extra time during the holidays but for many
kids, it means so much. "I love it! I get triple the presents!"
exclaims Grant Heinberg of Oak Brook. His mother, Kim, usually
holds his party close to Dec. 22, his actual birthday. "I have the
most luck planning the party on the last day of school. People are
still around and not on vacation or with relatives yet," she says.
She usually takes the party elsewhere rather than hosting it in her
home to take some of the stress off.
Timing is important with holiday parties. Allie Johnson of
Western Springs is now 16 and remembers the years of juggling her
birthday and the holidays. "It was hard because if I tried to do it
on a weekend, then a lot of people couldn't come because they were
all at family parties or on vacation," she recalls. Still, her mom
tried planning the party near her birthday, Dec. 23, although she
admits some years it was exhausting.
Jessica Mancuso of Elmhurst has always had her son's Dec.
17 birthday party near the actual day. "The only disadvantage is
that on the years where we have big parties, he gets tons of
presents all at once and gets overwhelmed," she says. "But he loves
that time of year so much, it doesn't really faze him."
Upside: A special day near the
actual day devoted to celebrating your child's particular
Downside: Planning and
budgeting a separate event with themes and decorations in the
middle of an already busy party season.
Stop searching for Tinker Bell cups or a Darth Vader
centerpiece, and consider the fact that the Christmas holiday (or
another December holiday) lends itself to plenty of party ideas and
the decorations are already in place. If you host it at home,
simply put a twist on traditional games: pin the star on the tree
or play musical chairs with holiday music. Partygoers can decorate
cookies or make ornaments as a craft. If you prefer not hosting a
party at home, take advantage of all the holiday entertainment in
the area. Plan an ice-skating party, have the kids go caroling or
take them to any of the holiday plays.
Cindy McCann of Clarendon Hills embraced the holiday theme
for her daughter, who was born on Dec. 22. One year she bought
small Norfolk Island pine trees and the kids made ornaments. The
decorated trees went home as a party favor. Another time, the girls
had relay races with shaving cream and decorated her relatives
(good sports who were dressed in red) like Santa. They've also been
to the zoo for Holiday Magic and attended The
"We recognize the fact that Christmas is right around the
corner so we incorporate the season but still make it about the
birthday girl," she says.
Upside: The theme and the
decorations are already in place.
Downside: Birthday child can
feel forced to share the holiday theme.
Some parents and kids prefer to spread out the fun. Kelley
Nelson of Geneva used to plan her daughter's big celebration on
June 22 to commemorate her half-birthday. "One year I made a
half-birthday cake that was half lion and half zebra," she
remembers. "I usually made some joke about Santa or Christmas in
her June invitation and explained that it was her
You can incorporate the holiday theme in a summer
birthday. Have Santa make an appearance or play Christmas music
outside in the warm weather. Kids will get a kick out of playing
traditional Christmas games in June, and this is probably the only
time when it's not only OK but actually funny to use Christmas
paper to wrap birthday presents!
A half-birthday helps spread out the glut of gifts that
would otherwise arrive in December and adds some
Upside: Birthday celebration is
spread throughout the year. Summer is an easier time to focus on a
Downside: Not near the actual
day, which is hard for some kids. Parents need to acknowledge the
real birthday in a smaller way.
Our family has finally settled on a January party. The
Christmas rush is over and we can focus on her and her special day.
January is a rather quiet month, and people are usually available.
Plus, many businesses have January or winter specials to entice
people out after the holidays.
On my daughter's actual birthday, Dec. 26, we take her to
out to dinner at the restaurant of her choice. It's too exhausting
to whip up another fancy meal and she likes being able to make the
decision. We celebrate at a family party with cousins and
grandparents early in December, making her birthday celebration a
month-long event-another bonus for her.
Upside: Close to the actual
birthday, but not lost in the shuffle of the holiday
Downside: Easy to get distracted
and forget to plan it. Some feel tapped out by holiday parties and
This is perhaps the toughest birthday of the year. By
necessity, part of the day is spent watching other people open
gifts. No matter how hard parents may try, the focus of the day is
on the celebration of Christmas.
Stacy Leonard of Elmhurst has only celebrated her
daughter's birthday once on Dec. 25. "There is a photo taken of me
that day that says it all," she recalls. "I'm sitting in a chair,
sound asleep. We had Christmas morning, church, Christmas dinner,
birthday cake and presents. It was too exhausting."
Now they choose to celebrate her birthday one or two weeks
before Christmas. They pick the day in advance, and that day is
entirely spent celebrating Meredith's birthday. When she was
younger, they would have her friends party during the day and a
family celebration in the evening.
When it comes to December birthday celebrations, no one
solution is perfect for everyone. Some kids resist celebrating on
any day but their actual birthday, while some enjoy having a day
that doesn't involve the holiday. It may take a few years to get it
right or the answer may come easily. It's a tough time to have a
birthday, but it's a magical time, too.
Laura Amann is a freelance writer and the mother of four living in Elmhurst.
See more of Laura's stories here.
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