"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

  • http://www.facebook.com/meg.rindfleisch Meg Rindfleisch

    Amen sister! My birthday is December 28, right between Christmas and New Year’s. The combo gift sucks, as does spending my birthday alone. Thanks for showing me the bright side though–from now on, I’ll just pretend that all of those Christmas lights on people’s houses are celebrating my birthday too 😀

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002560940441 Sage Helena Hooten

      My Sister’s birthday is on Dec. 28th and I’ve always gotten her two gifts one for Christmas and one for her birthday, but I give her the option of opening both gifts on Christmas if she wants. Many years she will have a half birthday party in June to avoid traveling friends.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kstings Kate Hastings

    I’ll be 22 on December 31st.

    I loathe my birthday. New Years Eve is always a letdown. It probably is for most other people, too, but it’s a double letdown for me every year. Everyone who sees my drivers license or knows that my birthday is NYE says the same thing, “Wow! That must be one big party every year!” And sometimes I play along and say “Oh yeah! It’s fantastic.” But if I know the person, I grimace and explain combo gifts and the Sixteen Candles effect of nearly every person forgetting your birthday entirely.. Or at least the “HAPPY NEW YEAR! Oh and happy birthday, Kate.”
    Luckily, I have 2 best friends that go out of their ways to hang out with me each year. And since all three of our birthdays fall around holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, and NYE), we have a birthday/Christmas dinner every December!

    So in most ways, it’s a huge ginormous letdown that makes me want to change my birthday to September, but in other ways it’s pretty great celebrating the month of December in such a big way.

    Happy Birthday/Holidays! =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/tracey.altenberger Tracey Altenberger

    My birthday is December 14th. I voice it and make it known! If I don’t, who will?? And, if my friends are busy and we can only celebrate my birthday the first week of December? Who cares_! That tends to mean multiple celebrations!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mackenzie.barrow Mackenzie Barrow Warren

    My birthday is 3 days before Valentine’s Day… When I was little I would get my mom to make me a heart-shape chocolate cake every year, and it helped that my favorite colors were pink and purple. But by the time I got old enough to date?…well, you can imagine how teenage boyfriends would react to that. too much pressure. it’s okay now though– i’m married and my husband is super sweet about making both days special! and since they’ve moved the Superbowl to early February, it’s the perfect time to get friends in family in one place for a big party.

  • http://www.facebook.com/megplumps Meghan Plummer

    We were born on the EXACT same day! We have tons of holiday birthdays in my family, so we know to make a special point of celebrating and NEVER giving combo gifts. I’m December 20th, my dad is the 26th, my grandma was the 28th, lots of relatives on the 1st or shortly after, and my mom is very close to Mother’s Day. To this day, I remember the one combo gift I ever got – my brother and his girlfriend got me a Backstreet Boys calendar. Then, a month later, after I already spent plenty on his Christmas gift, his outrageous birthday wish list showed up. Garbage.

    Happy birthday tomorrow!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=741660619 Suzanne Marshall

    My birthday is December 10th. I think I need new friends. My husband is fantastic except when it comes to birthdays. This year he decided to schedule a Christmas party for his car club friends on my birthday. Oh yea sounds nice, no. I was the after thought. That sucked. I want to be number one on my birthday for once, to someone, other than myself. I have to say it gets worse as you get older. Keep those friends close, who make a big deal of it, even when your close loved ones don’t. Thanks for the great article, it did make me feel better, next year will be great.

  • http://www.facebook.com/doriendavies Dorien Davies

    My Birthday is on the 25th. Oh the stories I could tell you… http://debaucheryauxiliary.blogspot.com/2010/12/thoughts-on-christmasbirthday.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1401008330 Jericha Soriano

    My birthday is on December 28th, right between Christmas and New Years and I’ve gotten used to either everyone forgetting, traveling or too busy to remember. But this article made me feel better, not so alone and it gave me ideas on how to enjoy it instead of dread it. Thanks!! I also might need some new friends too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brianneg Brianne Archer

    My birthday is the worst, December 30. No one wants to go out that day because they’re all planning to go out the next night. And I hate that almost everyone is out of town for the holidays so my birthday parties are typically tiny.

    This year I just don’t care. It’s a Friday night and three people have said they are excited to go bowling so that’s what we’re doing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carol.nowatzke Carol Nowatzke

    My birthday is Dec. 25, and I will tell the story of my 12th (my 21st is well, you guessed it, boring!) and offer a word of advice to those of you without holiday birthdays. On my 12th birthday, we celebrated Christmas at my sister’s house. She assumed that my mom was going to make a cake and my mom never thought about it. That year I got a pie with a taper candle stuck in the middle. To those of you without holiday birthdays, please don’t complain that you didn’t get to pick out what restaurant your family goes to for dinner. I never do.
    I will say that the whole birthday isn’t terrible, and I can say mostly because I have no concept of having a day to myself. The point about having good friends is great, though – I have one friend that calls me every year after midnight to sing, even though she is several hours away. A couple of my friends actually came over Christmas night a couple years in a row, bearing the convenience store gifts of Monster and Snickers. Really, the lesson here is not to take yourself too seriously. Even when it’s your birthday, the world does not revolve around you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1092494069 Alyssa Laura King

    I know exactly how you feel! My birthday is December 31st and every year everyone is either busy, burned out from Christmas, or forgets. Or they bring their boyfriends with them to my party because obviously they have to have them to kiss at midnight! Duh. Also, I’ve had several birthdays ruined by snow. Suffice to say, I’ve also wished that my birthday was some random day in April. One bright spot is that I have the option of going to fireworks on my birthday so it could be worse! At least my birthday’s not Christmas day. . .

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1425746820 Lauren Richards

    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 :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/ChelseaMcCown Chelsea McCown

    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!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=152501101 Emily Johnson

    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)

    • http://www.facebook.com/kstings Kate Hastings

      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. =)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=623642562 Allison Thomas Sandoval

    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. : )

  • http://www.facebook.com/dzkitty Lesli Booker Torres

    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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lizagillis Liz Gillis

    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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502544405 Kennebec H. Vial

    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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002582867690 Maddie Grant

    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!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=900020084 Emily Elizabeth LeBlanc

    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!

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