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Merry Birthday

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The lifelong curse of being born on Christmas

By Will Harper

THE FIRST RULE of giving presents to a Christmas baby is never, never give a combined, kill-two-birds-with-one-stone birthday/holiday gift.

As a Christmas baby myself, I know all too well the mixed emotions of getting the infamous highly efficient combo-gift.

Sure, I appreciate that someone thinks enough of me to buy me a present in the first place. But the combo-gift also reminds me that--get out the violins--I don't have my very own special day where people come together just to celebrate me and my existence on this planet--celebrate me, do you hear?

This kind of thing never happens to people born in April.

No one ever gives an April baby a present with a card saying, "Happy birthday and, ya know, I'm gonna be a little short on cash around the holidays, so let's just call it a Merry Christmas, too!"

Another annoying thing about being born on Christmas is the grocery clerk who, perusing my driver's license, exclaims, "Oh, a Christmas baby!" like I'm a little elf or something.

My response is usually a polite nod and a curt "Yes."

What am I supposed to say?

Afterward, I find myself hatching up different snide replies, things I should have said, which have gotten more bizarre as the millennium approaches. One of my latest musings: "Yeah, I was born on Christmas Day, just like Jesus. You ever heard of Judgment Day? Well, I'm the Second Coming and let me tell you, all those bastards who wished me a Merry Birthday are going straight to hell!"

And then, as the men in white short-sleeves and trousers escort me to my rubber living quarters, I am free to bask in the glory of having delivered a stinging, and totally inappropriate, tongue-lashing to some grocery clerk I don't even know.

No, I'm not bitter.

Fortunately, there are other people out there with the Christmas-baby curse with whom I can commiserate.

Bill Krumbein, a retired park ranger from Santa Rosa (born on Dec. 25, 1943), has assembled a Web site for children of the wreath, To Be Born on Christmas: Bummer or Blessing.

Christmas kids from around the world sent Krumbein the complaints about having to share their special day with Christ and Santa Claus. Chris from England, for instance, promises, "You can be sure that no child from mine will be born anywhere near December or January."

So why do kids and even adults born on Christmas feel so gypped?

Explains Krumbein: "The kid in us enjoys a birthday; but when the kid in us was still a kid, having that special day one can call all mine should be a birthright. My birthday." Christmas kids suffer indignities like the combo-gift, birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper, pumpkin pie instead of birthday cakes and fewer total presents during the fiscal year than our April-born cousins.

But glass-half-full optimists insist there is a good side to being born on Christmas: No school, no work, and the family is always together for your birthday (I'm not sure if everyone considers this a bonus).

Still, most Christmas kids I know don't find their special birthdate a blessing.

With that in mind, Krumbein offers parents a few tips on how to appease the Christmas kid in their lives:

  • Set aside time for opening only birthday presents.

  • Always wish the person a Happy Birthday first, a Merry Christmas second.

  • Give true birthday cards; never give a Christmas card with a scribbled "Happy Birthday" on it.

  • Don't wrap birthday gifts in Christmas wrapping.

  • Never give combination birthday/Christmas gifts.

  • A real birthday cake, not a slice of pumpkin pie with a candle.

As for Krumbein, he says he still isn't completely cured of his Christmastime blues, though his outlook has improved. "A few years back, I did make some sort of a transformation by deciding from now on I won't wear my 'Bah Humbug' socks or T-shirt again. Hey, that's progress."

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From the December 24-30, 1998 issue of Metro.

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