"ANOTHER combination gift?" A Guide To Surviving The Holiday Birthday Blues

Remember how in Sixteen Candles, Samantha’s sixteenth birthday was completely overshadowed by her sister’s wedding? Well for some, that same thing happens every single year. Holiday birthdays can tend to be the worst, especially if your birthday happens to fall directly on a holiday. So what do you do when you don’t have your own Jake Ryan to whisk you away in his sports car and make the day yours once again? As someone who’s had 23 years worth of birthdays overshadowed by Christmas (and this year, the first night of Hanukkah too), I can attest that it’s not always easy.

My 21st birthday, for example, was one for the records (the record for Worst Birthday Ever, that is.) That particular year, my birthday happened to fall not only 5 days before Christmas but also on the last day of finals, after most people had already gone home. I could have gone home myself, but being the oldest one of my friends at home and having a few older friends at college, I figured I would stay so that I could actually go to the bar. Long story short, basically everyone had already gone home, and those who planned on coming back just for my birthday ended up getting snowed in and unable to make it. I spent my 21st birthday alone in my sorority house, making dinner for myself. I did get taken to the bar by one friend who bought me one drink and then disappeared into the night, leaving me alone once again. Not to mention that when I finally did go home, everyone was in a Christmas frenzy, so celebrations were sparse there, as well.

Over time, I’ve learned to accept the inevitable truth of busy friends and combination gifts (for those of you lucky folks whose birthdays don’t fall near a holiday, a combination gift is just what it sounds like: one gift that counts towards both your birthday and the holiday it falls around), and even in some ways, embrace it. I know some of my friends with holiday birthdays of their own still struggle to make their seasons bright, so I put together some tips that I’ve picked up over the years on how to make your birthday yours once again.

  1. The combination gift can be your friend. I know it’s typically every holiday-birthday kid’s worst nightmare: only getting one present where everyone else would normally get two. Think of it this way instead: In most cases, instead of getting two sub-par gifts, you typically get one even better gift instead. What’s better? Two different sweaters or an Amazon Kindle? If that’s not how combination gifts work in your family, then I suggest asking for a better family for your next birthday.
  2. Use your birthday to help you get into the holiday spirit! Having my birthday so close to Christmas has made the holidays feel that much more magical for me. Once ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ comes on the radio and all of the colored lights start to sprout up around town, I know that I don’t just have Christmas to look forward to, but a birthday as well. This one doesn’t just apply to those whose birthdays are around Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year’s Eve/Day either. Halloween birthday? Presents AND candy! (Not to mention getting to have a birthday costume party!) Valentine’s birthday? Even if you don’t have a valentine of your own, you know you’re still going to have a celebration regardless! See what I mean?
  3. Have your party on a day that’s not your birthday. If your birthday happens to fall directly on a holiday, there’s really no way in avoiding it. Instead, celebrate your birthday on a different day to ensure that you get the party you deserve. Adversely, if your birthday falls on a holiday that’s typically only spent with loved ones, you can also celebrate that on a different day instead (i.e. celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve).
  4. Get better friends. One of the biggest letdowns on my birthday is that I rarely ever get to spend it with friends. Of course my Facebook gets assaulted with birthday messages by everyone who happened to notice the glaring notification to the right of their news feed alerting them that I do in fact exist for at least one day out of the year, but aside from Facebook, everyone is too caught up with their own holiday plans to remember. I’ve never had a surprise party. I’ve never had anyone go out of my way to make my day feel truly special. I don’t blame my friends, per say, but I fully blame this hectic time of year. If you can, find friends who will go above and beyond to make sure your birthday is celebrated. It will make a world of difference.
  5. Stay positive. A positive attitude is really the first step in making anything a happy experience. If positivity isn’t for you, then I guess you’re stuck having a crappy holiday birthday forever. What can I say? The better your attitude, the better your time will be.

I obviously haven’t perfected the formula for a perfect holiday birthday, so I would love to hear how you guys handle those tricky times. I do know, though, that even if your birthday passes by completely overshadowed by the holidays or your sister’s wedding, just remember that the weird foreign exchange student sleeping in your bed will be gone soon and it can really only get better from there.

Girl with presents photo via ShutterStock

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