I was born on Christmas, December 25. My brother, Peter, three years older than me, was also born on Christmas. So right from the start I’m sharing my birthday with both my brother AND baby Jesus.
If that wasn’t enough to dilute my birthday, Christmas was a big deal in my family. There was the tree to acquire, the Advent calendar to hang, the decorations to bring out. Every Christmas Eve we’d head to my grandmother’s in Niagara Falls to celebrate with my mother’s family and my cousins. That was the night of Italian seafood specialties: stuffed calamari and fried fish and macaroni with anchovies. Then on Christmas day, we gathered with my father’s family, the German side, which meant ham and potatoes (and jello molds). Desserts on both nights were a huge assortment of Christmas cookies: frosted cutouts, Russian T-balls, date-nut cookies, hello dollies, pizzelles laced with anise. But no birthday cake.
Christmas took precedence. There was no time to celebrate our birthdays on our actual birthdays. But my mom was pretty clever. She decided my brother and I would get a birthday celebration on our feast days. The feast of St. Peter is on June 29; St. David, who was the patron saint of Wales, is celebrated on March 1.
When March 1 finally came around many cold weeks after my actual birthday, I got to choose my dinner (I remember pancakes and sausages being a popular choice), and my mom baked me a birthday cake. I got my birthday presents that day.
The tradition of celebrating my birthday on March 1 is long gone, but the calendar date still appears every year, and March 1 remains a special, private day for me. It’s my day. No one else really knows about my feast day, or they no longer remember (although I did get a text from my sis today, and a happy feast day from my wife).
I like it this way. March 1 gives me the perfect reason to be good to myself. Not that we need reasons to treat ourselves well, but you know it doesn’t always work that way.
I’m back to recognizing my birthday on my actual birthday, although Christmas day is more crowded than ever. Make some more room, Jesus. My daughter Julia wanted to get in on the fun and so she decided to be born on Christmas morning—the best birthday and Christmas gift I could have ever gotten.
St. Julia’s Day is May 23, although that feast day tradition hasn’t held up in my family. Now we carve out time on Christmas to recognize our birthdays. But Julia and I know. All Christmas babies know: that day will never be about us. That’s why March 1 exists for me.