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

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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  1. January 3rd.
    In 26 years I have never had a birthday party. Never have I had a surprise party. My mom forgot my 10th birthday. I spent one birthday at a rest stop in a broken-down RV. People never remember my birthday. The one or two birthday cards I get in the mail often arrive after my birthday.

    And I love it! I don’t have to deal with people pretending to like me and wishing me a less-than-half-hearted happy birthday. On my 10th birthday my brother and I got to make my birthday cake – which I did on my own 13 years later. I know that when people do anything for my birthday it’s because they love me enough to make the effort and that makes everything super special. I never get them from my family but the combo gift increases my chances of getting any gifts at all from friends. My family tried to get me to have a “fake” birthday later in the year but I refused. I love my birthday right where it is!

  2. Love this post! My birthday is on the 4th of July. This may sound like an awesome day to have a birthday but it’s not. As a kid, I rarely had a birthday party because everyone would be out of town on summer vacays or at some family bbq. The rare party I did have, it was a combo party with my brother who was born on June 30th. I still don’t have parties because everyone always has something else to do, I am going to have to plan a party for the weekend before this year. Oh wait then it could be a combo party with my brother… ? Ugh… BTW, it’s my husband’s birthday today too. Happy Holiday birthdays everyone! We should all start a support group!

  3. TODAY is my birthday and finally some restaurants other than the usual 24 hour junk are staying open! ( sorry to all those people who have to work today though). Now there is a combo xmas birthday card. noone remembers till after new years… and buying presents for everyone when you just want to get the gift you want to get (and wont) lol hahaha

  4. My Birthday falls on January 7th so I see the entire month of December as the countdown to my birthday. I see so many people over that month that there is absolutely no way they can not be told about my birthday plans. As a bonus, most people tend to not make plans for the weekend after New Year, just so they can relax after a crazy fortnight but that leaves them totally vulnerable to my plans. I always find something convenient and cheap but, more importantly, very fun to do. A nice relaxed environment is always a winner. This year, I’ve hired out a private karaoke room at a local bar. It’s very comfortable with lots of space and seating. Easy to enjoy the ‘amazing’ singing and just as easy to have a chat amongst each other. I’ve also insisted upon not being bought presents for Christmas or my birthday, insisting that they only need to buy me a christmas drink. That is a very cheap option for most people so it kind of guarantees my birthday to have lots of guests attend!

  5. My birthday is on Christmas day. This Christmas I will be 21 years old and I will be spending the 24th and 25th at work then going home to an empty appartment with no heat in MN. The 26th i’m moving out of this appartment so there is nothing left here except my cat. my kindle and I. talk about a bummer birthday.

  6. I was born on Christmas day, but since my first birthday my parents decided to celebrate it in November to avoid all these problems! Which was fine until I grew up! Now all my friends like to wish me a happy birthday but ensuring that I understand its actually a ‘fake’ happy birthday….which kinda sucks as I then get no genuine happy birthday on my real birthday, I think people also then find it not so important to come to a party when I have one, as that too is fake.
    But I dont mind so much as I tend to enjoy celebrating other peoples birthdays more than my own, which each year I have a growing passion for it to be over and done with very quickly!

  7. I’m turning 22 on december 27th! I love it because way more of my family is gathered than there would be at any other time of year. People do run low on money with all the xmas gift buying, but i prob end up with more presents than I would otherwise. Plus, this year most of my friends have turned 21 so… it’s about to get kicked up a notch. AND *post-xmas sales*.

  8. December 23rd. Preach it girl!

  9. I feel you, sister. Sucked as a kid because I never got to have a party but now, 3 days before my 30th birthday, I have grown to love it! It seems like a huge celebration and you said it-magical time of year. Thanksgiving, then my b-day, then Christmas and New year’s all rolled into one. My family always is together whereas others might not. And I almost always get to have the day off work. And my family is wonderful. My Mom insists everyone wrap the Christmas presents in Christmas paper, and birthday presents in birthday paper. And she even tried to invent a game one year-pin the star on the Christmas tree. Overall, I’d say that the pros way outweigh the cons! Might I add that my parents’ names are (kid you not) Mary and Joseph!

  10. My b-day is two days after Christmas. I have taken some serious advantage of the combo gift! It can work in your favor. The problem I’ve always lamented is that everyone is out of town for my birthday. I don’t think I’ve had a proper party since I turned ten.

    I remember, though, in school people complaining about having tests on their birthday, and most my coworkers work on their birthday. I’ve never had a test on my birthday, and I always take the day off as part of my xmas vacation! And one year I even got a new niece on my birthday! I’ve come to love it.

    For anyone with xmas birthdays, watch the movie C.R.A.Z.Y. = main character has a birthday on Christmas and it is so drama with the family every year. He grows up feeling completely overlooked. Great coming of age tale!

  11. My birthday is Christmas day and I’ve always been a little bitter about all of the standard combo birthday issues. This year though, my amazing friends and husband threw me a surprise birthday party in the middle of August. I was so floored. It was the coolest surprise ever and I felt like an absolute princess, (so that’s what people get EVERY YEAR?!?) . New tradition! August 14th is my new birthday from now on.

  12. My birthday is today and I just discovered this site (in the midst of my last day of class/ before final and paper due) and this article made my day. Every year I get snowed in and no one is able to or wants to go out of their way to celebrate so I had started neglecting the importance of my birthday at all but as I got older I stopped making such a big deal about it and just enjoyed whatever happened. I should be lucky that it snows which usually points towards a white Christmas and this year I am currently “celebrating” my 20th birthday in Germany which means I can drink legally :) Thanks! and happy birthday to all around the holiday season!

  13. I know exactly how you feel!
    My birthday is in the middle of January, so people are either 1) not drinking 2) skint 3) sick with a cold. If I’m lucky all three. My 21st was so crap, we went out twice, it was still crap the second time.
    People wonder why I have ‘issues’ with this time of year, well – hello! I don’t particularly feel loved by anyone! My son born at the end of June has the best birthday, he’ll be six months old in a week, so will get presents and attention exactly half a year apart.
    The only saving grace, I now live in Australia so I’m off to the beach this year!

  14. Both mine and my husbands birthdays always landed on finals week. Now that we’re done with school we’re free next year for legit birthdays!

    Our daughter was born December 23rd though. She’ll be two this year and I made sure to get her birthday presents and Christmas presents. I knew sharing a birthday with Christmas would probably suck. I’ll try and keep it separate for her. Everyone deserves extra birthday love especially holiday babies. This article helps I’ll stash the knowledge away for the complains when she’s older cause I know it’s coming!

    And just for the record summer babies always complain about not having friends around, but I think Holiday babies get the short end way more than them. Just throwing it out there.

  15. I was due Christmas day, but born on January 2nd. The biggest disappointment with having a holiday birthday (at least as an adult) is that all of my friends tend to be out of town or hung over when my birthday rolls around.

  16. My birthday is on Christmas day and this year it seems my patience has run thin.. I can say from being a Xmas baby I LOATHE pumpkin pie cause every year my family thought it was so cute and special to give me a slice with a candle… I get the combo gifts and am ok with that… what I am not OK with is the Christmas cards with Merry Birthday, Happy Christmas written inside, seriously a combo card??? and look out for the corny combo birthday greeting.

  17. my son will be 4 this year, and he was born on Christmas eve. Everyone says, “awww, what a wonderful Christmas gift!” And all I can think is how sorry I feel for him!! So far, we have celebrated his birthday each year on the second weekend in January. His little brother will turn 2 on January 14th, so for now, they share parties. Luckily my family goes out of their way to make him feel special on his birthday, and my mom makes him a personal little cake and makes a big fuss over him. : )

  18. December 31st, but truthfully it’s gotten better as an adult! Now I know people are going to make great plans and get all fancy faced for my big day! ((Although it also sucks trying to get off for your birthday…when its new years eve)

    • Very true! Mine’s the 31st, too. Now that I’m 21, it’ll be a lot better than before and there’s always a party to go to! But we definitely may be the only people who are celebrating our birthdays and not the end of the year. =)

  19. My birthday is Dec. 29th, four days after Christmas and two days till New Years, it’s tough and this year the only time a party can happen is on New Years Eve. The way I’ve started to bust the Holiday Birthday Blues by making my birthday big! I make a big hype about it, asking everyone weeks before my bday if they can make it, what I’m planning, etc, and it gets people knowing that it’s important to me. I got tired of it not being top priority but other get kind of a week devoted to them (we have birthday weeks among some family and friends, extending the fun) so I made sure people knew/know how important it is to me. This year I’m having to meld my bday and a New Years Party, so I’m baking and decorating a fabulous topsy turvy cake and having decor for both, but it’s MOSTLY about me! I have to do all of the work and plan it all, but people tend to be around a little more when I make a big deal about it. Hope this helps someone!! :) We Holiday Birthday folk need to stick together!

  20. My birthday is Dec 22. It stinks! When I was younger my mom would have to celebrate my birthday a month earlier just so my friends would be able to come and they were always questioning why it was celebrated so early. The worse thing is getting your supposedly birthday gifts wrapped in Christmas paper. I guess it is just something you have to deal with, you are stuck with your birthday for the rest of your life :)