Monday, December 12, 2011

December birthdays

Pretty twinkly lights
December birthdays have the potential for a great deal of suckage. It begins when one is little, and elderly batty old ladies1 say “Oooh, it must be lovely having a birthday near Christmas! You must get lots more presents!”

Now, any child with a rudimentary grasp of mathematics2 knows that receiving birthday presents in the same month as Christmas presents does not mean that the birthday presents have magically multiplied. There is the same number of birthday presents, and now you’ll have to wait a whole year before receiving any more presents, unlike all those smug summer babies who’ll get a second chance to get the much-longed-for My Little PonyTM Dream CastleTM in a few months’ time.3 In fact, one is frequently worse-off, as the lazier of one’s relatives will pass over two identical gifts, saying “here is a Christmas present for Michael, and a joint Christmas-and-birthday present for Kathy”, and assume that just because Kathy is only five years old, she will not have remembered that Michael also got a birthday present in November.4 Still, it’s hard to blame the grown-ups sometimes – just because it’s December, that lump of plastic tat in the Argos catalogue for which you have yearned all year, and been counting down the days until you can unwrap the box and unleash the Sylvanian Families Caravan With Detachable Horse, will have gone up in price by at least 20%. Thanks, shops. And that’s before I even mention the problems people have with finding wrapping paper which doesn’t have holly or robins on it!

It’s not just the presents that have the potential to suck though. Not by a long shot. Y’see, the really really irritating thing about a birthday in December is Christmas. Christmas is, according to my calendar, the 25th of December. You’d think therefore I ought to be able to have a nice pleasant birthday, doing birthday things, and worry about Christmas afterwards, wouldn't you?


My local Wetherspoons’ has had Christmas decorations up since the 20th of November. Bloody Chris Bloody Evans on the radio was shouting about it being “the fifth day of Christmas!” No, you twat, it’s the fifth day of December, there is a difference. The DJ on Capital Radio (who I turned to to avoid the Radio Two twattiness, and is marginally less annoying than Chris Evans, despite claiming to like home-made gifts “because I’m an aquarium”5) was blathering on about it being “nearly Christmas” on the 7th of December. The high-street supermarket was blaring out naff Christmas songs on the 3rd of December,6 as if the place wasn’t noisy and unpleasant enough on a Saturday. Spontaneity is impossible - Tim arranged a little surprise get-together-with-friends for me, but the pub was packed with Office-Xmas-Let’s-Get-Slaughtereds, and it took a while to find a restaurant which was able to fit a group of seven in without pre-booking.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this little diatribe. Our family custom is to put the tree up on my birthday – two weeks before Christmas – but I know several December babies whose families wait until Christmas Eve before decorating the house, as is more traditional. This gives me a fairly definite “Christmas is permitted to start now” date, which means that I’ve noticed that Christmas genuinely is getting celebrated earlier and earlier each year, and this year feels especially bad.
Moonrise over Oxford Street
I like Christmas, I genuinely do. I’m not like my brother, who goes to pieces over Christmas shopping, and has one of those black “Bah Humbug” Santa hats. I love the twinkly lights and the tinsel and the dark starry nights with Orion in the sky. I love the fact that I get to do exciting things on my birthday – this year I went ice-skating in Somerset House, which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was a summer baby. I love the time off work, and visiting Tim’s family, and open fires, and good food, and mulled wine and Midnight Mass, and yes, I love the presents. It’s just that I love it all at Christmas time, not on the first of December! Please, on behalf of December babies, give us a chance to celebrate our birthdays without drowning in Christmas!

1 You know, the type who scream when they see a slug, and think that girls should wear pink frills and play with dollies. They say things like “Does oo want to be a nursey-wursey when oo gwows up, and take care of people?” and look a bit nonplussed when you respond with something like “Actually, I can’t decide. I’m contemplating forensic toxicology, but oceanography looks fun too. Want to see the slug I just found?”
2 Which is any child over the age of three. That’s why birthdays and birthday presents exist – it’s to teach children how to count: “Hooray! I have seventeen presents this year! That’s three more than last year!”
3 In my family we have a half-birthday tradition, where one receives a bar of chocolate or a book six months after one’s actual birthday. It goes a little way towards offsetting this problem.
4 That’s the other thing children learn from birthdays: life is essentially unfair.
5 Honestly, I swear she said that!
6 I do appreciate the recent xkcd on this.

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