Kimberly Lew
December 08, 2015 8:36 am

On the rare occasion that someone asks me when my birthday is, my answer is usually meant with a look of pity. “That must suck,” is usually the response I eventually receive. “You probably get short-changed on presents,” is a pretty common follow-up.

The truth is, I’ve never had a problem with having my birthday on Christmas. It’s often my fun fact when I meet new people—it’s certainly memorable, though I do have a lot of old friends who still manage to forget. I am not particularly religious, but having a birthday on Christmas has given me a huge appreciation for the holidays. Not only do I love that the whole season leading up to my birthday is full of light and celebration, but having my birthday near the end of the year also makes every year older feel even more like a new beginning, as the year beings to wrap up and I have the time to reflect on where I’ve been and where I want to go.

More than anything, I don’t know anything different. People often remark about doing double duty on presents or having to “share” my day, but I don’t really know what kind of expectations I’m supposed to have of my birthday or Christmas when they’re not shared on the same day. I’m not someone who likes a lot of attention, so I don’t need a day to declare my own. I even like that, when people give me gifts, I can give them something as well, making it a reciprocal exchange. One drawback is that I often have trouble remembering other people’s birthdays unless it falls on a major holiday, but come Christmas time, I am in full giving mode, wanting to send cards and give gifts to let friends and family know how much I’ve valued how they’ve enriched the last year of my life.

The thing that I’ve observed about my friends’ birthdays is that they all celebrate them differently. Some go all out with a whole week of activities and big parties. Some shut themselves away for their birthday, choosing to let the day pass with no hoorah. Some friends want to celebrate but have no idea how. I once knew a guy who would spend his birthday reading about famous writers and artists who were famous before whatever age he was turning.

The common denominator I’ve found in the way that people celebrate their birthdays is that everyone seems to just want to spend the day feeling loved by the people they care about, and I think having a Christmas birthday makes me very lucky in this respect. The fact that Christmas is a national holiday has always been a gift, as it’s allowed me to spend almost all of my birthdays with my family in some form or fashion.

When I was little, Christmases were spent with my whole dad’s side of the family, talking loudly in our Hawaii living room around a tree, feeling the spirit of the holidays even though the ceiling fan would be whirring away in the background. When my family moved to Georgia, we used the school holiday breaks to travel, often meeting my grandparents in cities across the country. My first visit to New York occurred on my 12th birthday, and I remember drinking fresh squeezed orange juice from the deli downstairs in my grandparents’ hotel room, mesmerized by the noisy city down below. I have always loved that Christmas has been the excuse for me to be able to spend my birthday surrounded by the people that I love. Even once I moved to New York, my family and I would still find ways of spending the day together: either I would fly home, my family would come up to visit, or we would all meet somewhere else.

Three years ago, I decided to stay in the city by myself for my birthday after realizing that flying home for only a few days would be far too expensive. When plans to meet up with a friend that day fell through, I found myself spending the day in my studio apartment, ordering Chinese food and watching Christmas episodes of sitcoms all day. It was very different, celebrating Christmas and my birthday alone, but it also made me realize how lucky I had been to have a birthday where being with those I loved was the norm.

Birthdays can come with a lot of emotions and revelations, but ultimately, they are what we make of it. So I make a point to always be thankful for my birthday, for what I get and what I have, for the love that comes with the occasion. There’s very little that “sucks” about that.

[image via NBC]

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