I was in Asda shortly after New Year, earwigging while I was picking up some bits. I’m a writer, it’s what we do. Say something interesting in front of me and it’s going in my notebook, with no exceptions. Anyway, two women were next to me in the queue talking about one of their daughters, whose birthday happened to fall that week. “She understands why she can’t have a birthday party like her brother and sister do,’ said one to the other, sounding sad (but not quite sorry enough for my liking). “Their birthdays are earlier in the year, but hers is just too soon after Christmas.’ Her friend nodded and agreed the January daughter was indeed good girl for being so gracious.
Me, I felt like turning around and bellowing NO, YOUR JANUARY DAUGHTER DOES NOT UNDERSTAND. She puts up with it because she’s a nice kid. Save money up and put it to one side for her party or just don’t give your other children parties. What you are doing is bloody unfair.
I didn’t say any of this. I should have, though. Really wish I had.
This example on its own puts paid to the myth that Christmas only lasts for a single day. That’s the lie that gets told to anyone who finds Christmas uncomfortable or sad or upsetting or irritating, isn’t it? Get through the one day and that’s it, you’re sorted. Breathe, over and done with for another year. Go for a stroll in the afternoon to break it into manageable bitesize chunks and life winds comfortably back to normal after twenty four hours.
Erm, wrong. Christmas stretches out like a yawn. Its effects begin in September and reach well into February, money wise anyway. Financial pressures and general wariness of Christmas is one thing. The birthday issue is another. The fact is, if you have the misfortune to be born In December or January, your special day is disliked by all. People don’t know how to cope with anomalies like birthdays a month before or after 25th December, or so it seems. So I‘ve put together a little guide on how to cope with a friend or relative’s birthday if it occurs around then. I do hope it helps.
- Don’t try and shoehorn someone’s birthday into the Christmas night out. No matter how much you convince yourself otherwise, birthdays are on the day cited on a birth certificate and that’s that.
- Make the person whose birthday it is the focus of proceedings. It’s the nice – and only – thing to do. Tales of your own Xmas shopping traumas and other personal shit are very poor birthday talk etiquette (but still prove surprisingly common anyway).
- Expensive presents are nice, but not important. Even meals out aren’t that much of a biggie (but children’s parties are, bloody hell – I’ll never get over that woman in Asda, ever). The gift of your company is precious. So don’t aim to get home in time to catch Eastenders, or clock-watch because it’s a late shopping night and you have to “get on”.
- If you’re going out for a meal or to the movies to celebrate friend’s birthday, let them choose the restaurant or the film. Please.
- The Xmas-and-birthday-present-in-one thing. That’s a no. Anyone even thinking about trying this on deserves jail time, and lots of it.
I’m collecting donations of new children’s and YA books for families struggling this Christmas. More information here.