How do you celebrate birthdays that fall on, or close to, holidays?

Posted by
Happy birthday, Laura! We got you a Christmas cake because it’s also Christmas. (Photo by: Kyle NishiokaCC BY 2.0)
We are an agnostic family, and while Christmas is not my favorite holiday, we welcomed our sweet baby boy in to the world last year on Christmas Eve.

My husband’s birthday is the 28th, so he’s not a stranger to being forgotten at Christmas time (probably one of the reasons we don’t celebrate Christmas much).

But in this Pinterest-crazed day and age, I feel kind of put-out that we won’t be able to have big birthday celebrations, as almost everyone will be busy with Christmas festivities.

Any suggestions? -Colleen

That guy I married was born on New Year’s Eve. My niece’s birthday is around or on Thanksgiving. And my mom’s birthday is weeks away from Christmas. Yeah… we’re a family full of birthdays over-shadowed by holidays.

So we’ve come up with a few solutions:

  • Instead of trying to out-do New Years Eve, we pour all the goodness of birthdays — friends, cake, and partying — into that guy I married’s Shark Attackiversary every year. So at least one day a year he gets all that “you are special today” energy.
  • My sister has been known to throw ThanksBirthdays for her kid — presents and then delicious Thanksgiving dinner with family.
  • My mom’s is far enough away from Christmas that she still gets a special day, but she also still gets that “this is for your birthday AND Christmas” bullshit. So I make it a point to get her different gifts for each.

Who else is a victim of holiday birthdays? What solutions have you come up with to keep the party going, even when others are out of town, or distracted?

Comments on How do you celebrate birthdays that fall on, or close to, holidays?

  1. My son is Dec 9th, husband is Dec 11th and our anniversary is dec 4th. For as busy a family as we are it gets hard to do two birthday parties, anniversary dinner and Christmas and all that comes with it in a matter of weeks (and to afford it all at once!). We celebrate our sons birthday early so it’s kind if separate from Christmas but then my husbands birthday kind if gets lost in that shuffle (we came for your kids party but here’s our present for Dad). We’re aware of the double gifting (one gift for Xmas and birthday) and just make a strong effort to avoid that — but rarely do we nail our anniversary! We both just kind if let it slide and replace it with an Xmas gift. It’s really not easy!!

    • My birthday often falls very close to or on Mother’s Day. It’s always been difficult to get friends to celebrate my birthday with me because they often have things planned with their moms. My birthday also usually falls on college finals week, which only makes it harder to find friends who are free to celebrate. But sometimes when I was younger I got 2 parties, one with family and one with friends, so that was pretty nice. My mom basically gives me an entire birth week instead of just one day to make up for the fact that I have to share my special day with mother’s day and final exams.

  2. My birthday is two days after Christmas, and my mother’s is two days after mine. I never really felt like I “suffered” for having a holidayish birthday. True, when I was younger, my friends were never around to party because they were visiting family, so we always did my “for friends and not immediate family” party in January after school started back up (which also helped prevent the birthday/holiday gift combo threat). Nowadays, I love it because everyone is on break or holiday from work, so they’re all able to swing by and hang out with me, even if just for a bit.

    I also occasionally get the “Here’s your birthday/Christmas gift!” (mainly from friends). It doesn’t generally bother me much. Most of my friends are tight on money, and in my OLD AGE, I’ve come to appreciate the time they took to see me more. My parents also were extra careful to mark the two occasions separately. They gave me holiday gifts, but the big stuff was saved for my birthday. I always got an obscene number of gifts in December. So no, I never felt deprived for having a birthday right near a major holiday. Much of that though was due to my parents working hard to make it special for me, and sort of coming to terms with it by focusing on the positives (I don’t have to ever work/go to school on my birthday! I’m already visiting family! SO MUCH DELICIOUS FOOD! Everything’s all bright and sparkly and decorated…. I’ll just assume it’s all for MEEEEEE!!!!)

  3. I have a mid-December birthday and share a birthday with one of my best friends, so planning any sort of a party is always a challenge. She and I usually alternate years on planning a big thing vs small thing, or whoever feels the most like planning does it. Being in prime holiday season makes finding a place to get together a challenge every year though. This year December seemed to be especially hectic, and my poor little introvert soul just couldn’t handle another December obligation, even if it was to celebrate me.

    Instead of trying to cram a birthday party in, I’m throwing a half birthday party in June. We’ll go camping, have a cookout on top of a (very small) mountain, and do all of the fun things you can’t do in the winter.

  4. Being a post-Christmas kid, I have always sworn never to do what my mother did, which was to go through the presents that had already been placed under the Christmas tree and pull some to be held for a few days until my birthday. NO. If it’s UNDER THE TREE, it’s for CHRISTMAS! My twelve-year-old self was highly offended by that!

      • Seconding the suggestion for very obvious wrapping differences. Even if you wrap everything in the funnies, tie the Christmas one with red string or put a big paper heart or something on the Valentine’s gift, and decorate the birthday gift with balloons or happy birthday paper.

        • Absolutely! My dad’s birthday is four days after Christmas, and he always got shafted as a kid. I am very careful to use non-Christmas wrapping paper for his birthday.

  5. My birthday (and my twin’s!) is New Years Eve as well. The morning feels just like a normal birthday, but after dinner we get into NYE mode 🙂 I’ve never felt jipped out of gifts even though Christmas was just 6 days ago. I joke that everybody celebrates our birthday :o)

  6. My birthday is often very close to Thanksgiving. As a kid, it was more like a bonus rather than a problem because it meant I got to celebrate twice – once with friends and once with family (the family party being tied to Thanksgiving dinner). I probably wouldn’t have had the family party had it not been for Thanksgiving because we didn’t live that close to most of our relatives. (fyi, since most of my family members are relatively secular Jews, Thanksgiving was THE holiday on which to gather, so my birthday was in the middle of that).

    The timing of my birthday gave me the opportunity to celebrate with people I didn’t get to see very often. I think at the time I didn’t really care that much except to the extent of “yay, more presents.” But looking back, I kind of cherish the memories of those Thanksgiving-birthday celebrations. Among all the pies and other Thanksgiving fare, there was usually a birthday cake, and that cake was for ME. My relatives seemed to enjoy the chance to celebrate a little extra, even among all the Thanksgiving festivities.

    I think for any well-loved child (as I expect the question-asker’s child is), there is probably more than enough celebrating to go around.

    • You’re lucky, my birthday is on thanksgiving this year, but sometimes its just really close. But my family just seems to ignore my birthday when its my birthday and if IF I have a party with friends its like a month early because my friends are all really busy during November. The only person that celebrates my birthday, is me. It’s sad unless my birthday falls on one of the very rare years that it is during school. Then my friends decorate my locker and through me a mini party at school (everyone’s friends tend to do that if you tell them when your b-day is)

  7. My nephew and niece have birthdays just after major holidays. I make sure to send them an actual thing for Christmas then do a card with money in it separately. I figure after the deluge of Stuff it might be nice to have a little spending money of their own so they can either get (or save towards) something they wanted but didn’t get, or something to supplement a gift they got (say they got an ipod, they can use the money toward songs). Plus for me it saves having to come up with two “things” to gift.

    Oh, also her birthday isn’t as close to the holidays but I started gifting my mom flowers for her birthday every year, which are super easy to order online. She doesn’t need more stuff and loves getting flowers, so it works out for everyone.

    • The idea of sending a gift for one and cash for another makes sense. With kids’ birthdays close to holidays, especially little kids, there’s a risk of being completely swamped in toys for a particular age. My niece’s b-day is January 7. I give her a gift for Christmas and a gift for her birthday, but we’ve made a it a tradition for one of the gifts to be an outing, just the two of us. She’s only 7, but I think giving one item and one experience is something we can keep going.

  8. I’m a US Independence Day baby, which doesn’t sound so bad, but as a kid, it was pretty sucky. I also have a few friends who were born on/around Christmas. My YMMV advice is:
    1.) No holiday colours unless the guest of honor says okay. No Christmas cakes, no Hanukkah balloons, no Kwanzza-coloured streamers, no Festivus poles as piñata sticks, no holiday-themed items as gifts.
    2.) The birthday presents must be wrapped in birthday paper. My friends suggest that if you must double up–don’t. They would rather get a birthday gift and warmest wishes for the holiday season.
    3.) Have a drink and eats night later. Rather than trying to invite over friends for a birthday party only to be disappointed when no one can make it, have the celebration later on.

    • OMG the wrapping paper! I’m a Christmas Eve baby, and that was always what got to me. I honestly didn’t mind fewer presents, but dammit I didn’t want them in Christmas tree paper.

      As for celebrations, birthdays in my family were low key regardless of when in the year they fell- dinner out at a restaurant of your choice with a couple of friends, a one or two small gifts- so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much. When I was of sleepover age I would have a party in mid-January.

      As someone mentioned upthread, it’s actually kind of nice as an adult, since it’s a time of year when lots of old friends are around. Ends up being a good excuse to meet up for drinks.

      • Yes to the wrapping paper!!!! Drives my husband crazy. He’s mid-December, but HATES when his gifts come in Christmas paper. I think that’s his number one objection to a Christmas birthday.

        • Most of my presents get wrapped in non-Christmas paper, even those that are meant for Christmas. My favorite paper to use is actually purple with white dots on it. My friend that has a birthday in December doesn’t mind having Christmas paper on hers though, as long as it’s snowflakes. She loves snowflakes.

    • Along with no holiday paper, I’d also say no season-themed gifts. My birthday is often near Easter and I was quite sick of receiving things decorated with bunnies and in pastel colors that were obviously purchased from the holiday aisle. I rather loathe pastels. :-/

  9. This may not work for all but a bit like Megan’s idea. A friend of mine from school has a 24th of dec birthday. She has her ‘birthday’ in July however on the date of her baptism. This may not work for everyone as her baptism is a Christian thing however maybe there’s another occasion you could use:
    -Name day
    -the day you announced that you we expecting.
    -A day that’s important to your family (in my family its the day my Grandad became a vicar- yes i am from the religious circle of people)

    This wouldn’t work for you situation but I know someone who’s birthday is the 15th of December and they have a policy of no Christmas decorations until after then. Not sure if that would work in the US because of Thanks Giving. Equally my friend birthday which is the 3rd of jan has a policy all Christmas decorations are gone before her birthday.

  10. My brother’s birthday is January 4th, and my mom told me that exactly 6 months before his birthday, my mom would throw him a “Half Birthday” where they would have a Birthday Party for him, but he would be served half a cake, with half spoons or forks, just everything she could think of to half. She said him and his friends really enjoyed it.

  11. Half-birthday parties are pretty awesome! A friend of mine with a December birthday always had a “half-birthday pool party” during the summer. It was amazingly fun, and it gave her the opportunity to have a warm weather party outdoors. I know her parents always celebrated her actual birthday with a small, family gathering and special presents in December, as well.

  12. My best friend’s birthday is December 27th, and when she and I first became friends I promised her I’d never do the combination gift thing. Each year I send her the Christmas Birthday Present Box of Spooky Doom. Most years it actually has three presents in it- one for Christmas, one for her birthday, and one that she can decide to either open for Christmas or her birthday, depending on how patient she feels that year.

  13. my birthday is 12/26 and my sister’s is 12/31. My parents solution to this predicament when we were young was to clearly sperate the two holidays- (Christmas and birthday). No joint gifts allowed from anyone. Our celebrations were always intentionally small- nuclear family only-. That ensured that everyone invited was always able to attend. As an adult- i have simply thrown a party later in February. This work as everyone has recovered from the holidays- and the winter doldrums are just setting in.

  14. Between close friends and family (people for whom we’d get gifts), my wife and I have 7 birthdays in December — including hers! We and our friends/family celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and Yule/Solstice, too. I literally have a spreadsheet to budget and track gift purchases and deliveries. Like many people, we have 4-5 weeks of celebration and social engagements at the end of the year.

    A pet peeve of my wife’s (and other holiday babies) is that she felt overlooked on her birthday (Dec 14), with presents postponed until Christmas or birthday cakes with red/green frosting because that’s what the store had. We don’t celebrate her birthday as effusively as mine in April, it’s true, but she gets a separate present and an experience (a meal, a special date) from me that’s not at all Christmas-related. Our three friends who have Hanukkah-adjacent birthdays get separate gifts, too — one for birthday and one (or a couple smaller things) for Hanukkah. Some years the budget has meant choosing one holiday to give a gift and one to just write a card; which one I chose really depended on the birthday person’s preferences, and also on whether I was giving holiday gifts or birthday gifts to the non-holiday-born. The important part was to acknowledge the two occasions separately.

  15. Both my dad AND my husband are on the 23rd of December, and they’re both very hard people to buy presents for. My husband doesn’t mind the two-gifts in one thing as long as te budget for two gifts was spent and so it’s something really good quality.

    When I was growing up (and still now) we always made sure that the 23rd was celebrated all day as dad’s birthday, and we went out for dinner and saw a show or something. My husband had grown up with basically having people forget his birthday to the point where he doesn’t really care any more, but hopefully over the years we can change that! Of course, if we’re with my family for Christmas he has to share his birthday, but as a family we love birthdays and make sure he feels celebrated!

    • My birthday is mid-November, 4 days before my brother’s (who was 2 years older than me). Growing up, we always had joint birthday parties. After a terribly disappointing 21st birthday, I gave up, stopped caring, and resented my birthday. Of course, my husband is a jerk like you and is trying to make me like my birthday again. 🙂 In fact, he even threw me a surprise party the week before my actual birthday this year. But, one wonderful night does not wash away the years of disappointment.

    • My little brother is on the 23rd too (and in my country, Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve not Christmas Day). We always had the policy of not having Christmas decorations up until after his birthday, so in the morning of the 24th everyone would switch to Christmas frenzy mode to get everything ready in a couple of hours. Stressful, but kinda fun. To be honest, my brother couldn’t care less, it is my mother who’s always making a song and dance about it … now that he’s older, he also very much likes the idea of “joint presents” because he gets more and bigger stuff, like a whole new computer (my birthday is in May, and I never got fancy presents like that … meh.)

      My significant other’s birthday is on the 28th. We love it, because by the time his birthday comes we’re sick to death of Christmas and we use it as an excuse to go home and spend some quality alone-time together as a couple (or sometimes with friends, who are equally happy to get away from family madness) and finally have sushi instead of gravy-drenched holiday feasts and cookies. 😉

  16. My birthday is Dec 17th. My mom is a freakin nut when it comes to Christmas, during my entire childhood my birthday was incidental to Christmas, consequently I grew to really hate Christmas (add on divorced/remarried parents, traveling all day to be in many places and generally expected to be having “fun” for other people). Sometime in my early 30s I decided that all holiday gatherings were held in my honor. Later I deemed the holiday season, Qathimas, and that all the decorations are for me. Now I go to holiday parties, all of the holiday parties and enjoy the shit out of them, I drink all the things and eat all their snacks and just blatantly apprehend their party for my own purposes. On the home front, my spouse is the very best at birthdays and really goes out of the way to make my birthday super special and fun.

    Happy Qathimas everyone!

  17. Hey, Christmas-time bdays are not all bad! My birthday is Dec. 27, and when I tell people, they all say, “That must suck”, but not so! I always had my birthday off from school, which was especially wonderful when I went to college across the country because I could always spend my bday with my family and zero homework–no complaints there!

    It also helped that my parents were committed to making my bday special and separate from Christmas–that included taking down the tree and Xmas decorations on Dec. 26. I always got to choose my bday theme and my mom would make an elaborate cake, come up with party games, and take sooooo many pictures. Sometimes our extended family and friends were too busy to come, but honestly, for me, it wasn’t about how many people were there, it was about my parents making such a fuss over me and getting to do/eat my favorite stuff. Plus, they would start planning months ahead of time, so hearing your parents talk about your birthday like it’s a big deal convinced me that they cared.

    I did try moving my bday to July once and it just felt too weird–it was nice that my parents let me decide, though. No pressure either way.

  18. I just might know weird people, but sometimes a combination gift lets you give (or receive) something way nicer for them than you would have otherwise, so they appreciate the nicer combo-gift. This could also be since my family is spread out we often miss birthdays and just catch up a month or two later, so it doesn’t seem that odd to me. I’ve gotten combination october birthday and december christmas gifts before, which is fine if I really wanted that item. My family has always been pretty flexible to when we celebrated birthdays with my parents’ work schedules, though.

  19. My husband’s birthday is July 5th, so all of his friends are usually at the shore, busy with 4th of July stuff, or just plain hungover. His 30th was this year, so lots of people did show up, but in the past maybe two or three people would come hang out. As a kid nobody ever came to his parties. It is pretty sad. I think from now on we’ll just hang out together, with family, or with his bff.

  20. I definitely have experience with this. My little sister was born 4 days after Christmas. There are some definite SHOULDS and SHOULD NOTS:

    1. NEVER combine their present with the holiday present. My cheap aunts and uncles would do this with my sister, so you can imagine how disappointing it is to a child when your older sisters get a present each for their birthday and Christmas, but not you. The only time this is acceptable is if the gift being given is VERY expensive. My parents bought my sister a cute hipster bike last year, and because of the high price tag it was both a Christmas and birthday gift.

    2. Don’t “theme” their birthday with the holiday their birthday is on or near unless they ask for it specifically. Wrap their present in birthday wrap as opposed to Christmas wrap, don’t have Christmas decorations instead of birthday ones, etc. However, my birthday is a week away from Halloween, so I always found it fun as a kid to have costume birthday parties with “creepy” cakes.

    3. Try to have separate celebrations. Like, specifically celebrate the birthday, then specifically celebrate the holiday. Try to have the celebrations on the proper days if possible, but if the person doesn’t mind, then move the birthday celebration. My sister sometimes waits until January to have a birthday party because then she would have a combo birthday with two of her other friends (both born early January and late December).

    4. Make a big deal about the birthday. Often holiday birthdays get overlooked. So make a point of directly saying to that person “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” on their actual birthday. Sometimes people are like, “Oh right your birthday is coming up/has gone by…I was so distracted by [insert holiday here]” No one likes to hear their birthday is an afterthought.

  21. My birthday is one week before Christmas. I’ve never had a birthday party and I never will because everyone’s busy with their families. I understand (really, I do) and I’ve usually enjoyed my day anyway, but I’ve also always usually missed out on that “it’s your special day” feeling.

    However, when I got married earlier this year, I found out that it’s nice to feel like the special person once in a while. Not all the time because that would be unreasonable, but when it’s “Your Day,” it should feel like “Your Day” even if others aren’t available to celebrate with you.

    So for my birthday this year, I took time off work and treated myself. I went shopping and then snuggled up with a good book in a coffee shop; one of my favorite past times. I even wrote myself a birthday card that I’ll open and read on my next birthday. I also asked Hubby to wrap my presents in birthday wrapping paper instead of Christmas wrapping paper and told him that I would like a Disney Princess birthday cake. (He delivered on both; sweet guy.)

  22. I freaking LOVE having a December 13 birthday. It is such a magical month. We have a December 20th anniversary and our son is also born on the 20th.

    As a kid I always had my birthday party on the last Friday before school let out for break, cause it’s harder to rustle friends up after break starts. They’d ride the schoolbus home with me and the party was right after school. We would wait to put up Christmas tree until after my birthday. Wrap gifts in birthday presents.

    Also…don’t be a Debbie downer. I never realized as a kid that my birthday was at an inopportune time, my parents just treated it like normal. They also let me open my gifts whenever they came in (presents by mail from out of town guests), so it sorta felt like birthday month PLUS Christmas!!

  23. My partner’s birthday is on the 22nd of Dec, and his partner (my metamore) is a New Years Eve baby. It gets a little stressful on the present front (our anniversary is in late November, so I oft find myself searching for 3 awesome presents in the space of one month), but I make a point of getting separate birthday/Christmas presents for both of them (unless I invest in something REALLY special), and I try to keep an eye out throughout the year for awesome presents so it doesn’t become a massive stress-fest at the end of the year.

    One year, I organised a surprise dinner for my partner’s birthday. As it’s right before Christmas, and as his family is elsewhere, he’s used to just letting his birthday go by without much acknowledgement, so organising a specific birthday event for him, even something as low-key as dinner, went a long way .

  24. My husband’s birthday falls on Thanksgiving every few years, and it get’s completely overshadowed. We agreed when we first started dating that those years would be ‘our years’, and we would go out of town for a few days and hole up in a hotel and just have a really nice time together.

    TWO of my family members (a father/son combo) have a birthday the day after Christmas, and they always have a totally separate thing for that, even though we went over just the day before for the holiday. It really helps break things up for them. We don’t always attend both, but we make sure that we are there for the purpose of the day instead of treating it like an all in one sort of deal. Also, like others have said, separate wrapping paper and the BIG gifts are for the birthday, not for Christmas. Separate food too- Christmas is dinner with the traditional fanfare, the day after none of that food is anywhere to be found- it’s birthday cake and party food.

    Not quite the same but I share a birthday with my older sister AND our younger cousin- so my birthday has never been ‘mine’ (and their’s haven’t been their’s, to be fair). So my parents always made sure to celebrate us individually as well as together. I love sharing a birthday with them, but I also looked forward to just my special dinner or just my time, even if it happened a few days early or late. Now, as adults, my sister and I celebrate each other, just us two, by going out to lunch or dessert, and using it as a sister date, and of course I celebrate it with my husband or my friends separately from my family.

  25. My brother and my aunt were both born on Thanksgiving, so we always just devoted that weekend to partying. Last year they finally told us they were sick of turkey dinner for their birthdays, so my aunt came up with a new “Anti-Thanksgiving” tradition the day after Thanksgiving where everyone makes something they’ve never made before and we do their birthday stuff then.

    My grandfather was born on 1/8, and he just celebrates on his half birthday so as not to be lost in the holiday shuffle.

    One of my friends was born on 12/21, and she just celebrates then. She actually loves Christmas and the decorations and stuff, but she does hate combined presents and Christmas paper on birthday gifts. This is the first year I’m giving her a combined present, but only because she asked for it! (too expensive otherwise).

Read more comments

Join the Conversation