I was born on December 25, 1979.
That’s right, of the 365 days in a year; I chose to enter this world on Christmas Day.
Right now, a good portion of you are thinking the following:
“Awwwww, a Christmas baby!!! What a great gift for her family!”
“It must be so fun to have a birthday on Christmas!!”
“That sucks, I bet she doesn’t get any presents for her birthday!”
How do I know that this is what you’re thinking? Am I psychic? Well, yes, a little, but that is neither here nor there right now. I know this is what you are thinking because these are the three most common sentiments uttered when someone finds out my date of birth. And that is often. If you think about it, it’s not just your friends and family that know your birth date, it’s any time you EVER have to present ID and someone glances over your license. From bouncers to medical personnel; from customer service agents to the random lady at the DMV, everyone has a comment about my date of birth. Think about it: how many times a week does someone ask you your DOB?
When people discover this tidbit of information it is often met with excitement, as if they have just met someone who has been given something special from the universe. You were born on the same day as the big guy himself? The entire world stops and celebrates on your birthday! How special must you be!?!? This excitement is immediately extinguished when I utter the following words: “Well, I’m Jewish.”
I immediately see the confusion wash over their faces, the hesitation over what to say next. If it’s over the phone, there is always a nice long pause, during which I satisfyingly complete some irrelevant task that I had been working on. To most people, they are unsure of what this actually means. It’s not that they don’t understand that Judaism is a different religion; it’s that they can’t fathom that there are people who exist that don’t actually celebrate Christmas. Doesn’t everyone celebrate the awesomeness of this holiday?
First, I will explain why it kind of does stink to have your birthday on Christmas, whether you celebrate or not. Having nothing to do with gifts, attempting to acknowledge a birthday, a day that should not go unnoticed by the most important people in your lives, overshadowed by an almost national holiday is difficult. No matter what, your day, the one day of the year that it is acceptable to indulge in somewhat selfish, narcissistic behavior, is overshadowed in a LARGE way by the fact that a large portion of the people you know are celebrating something else. There is just no way to compete with Christmas. Most everything is closed, people are away on vacation or celebrating their own holiday with their family—and you can’t complain. Really, how can you say, “Well, it’s my birthday; tell your family you will do Christmas on the 26th!” It’s not an option.
However, it is simultaneously fabulous and wonderful. You are unique. Very few people hear my birth date and don’t have some sort of comment. Whether positive or negative, everyone has an opinion about the day that you were born. Your family and friends are also always, in some capacity, around. It’s not like having your b-day on June 17th, which could be a Tuesday in which everyone is off to their respective job or class. Someone is home to spend this day with you. So what if I eat Chinese food and go to the movies every year, I still get to do it with people I love. Why? Because their offices are closed!!!
Being Jewish on this holiday highlights a different set of issues. I love Christmas, I really do. I think the lights are beautiful, the trees are fun, the entire kit and caboodle that goes along with this holiday is pretty intriguing. However, it is a little disappointing to see confusion on people’s faces when they hear you don’t celebrate. How can that be? Doesn’t everyone celebrate? No, not everyone does- some of us light our Hanukkah candles, eat our latkes, and call it a day. It is disturbing that in 2015 an explanation as to why we don’t celebrate has to be provided. Just the other day I overheard a conversation: “Oh, a Russian Jewish person? Yeah, yeah, I think there are a few of those.” This was said with such a tone as to insinuate that we were as rare and unique as a two horned unicorn. Get a clue dude, you live in suburban New York City, and the highest concentration of Eastern European Jews outside of Israel reside in your backyard.
So, bottom line—having your birthday fall on the largest holiday of the year is a double edged sword. Lots of positives. Lots of negatives. The most disturbing aspect, however, is being reminded of what a minority I am. I am proud of my heritage, my religion, and passing on my traditions to my children. I should not have to constantly justify that because of my date of birth.