If you ask a child who celebrates Christmas about their favorite day of the year, their answer will likely be one of two occasions: the aforementioned December holiday or their birthday. But what happens when these two occasions fall on the same day?
According to data compiled by FiveThirtyEight on daily births in the U.S. from 1994 to 2014, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Eve were the three days least likely for children to be born.1 However, this overlap can and does happen. Add in birthdays that land between Christmas and New Year’s, which are actually incredibly common, and parents are put in a pickle.1 How do you make your child’s birthday feel just as special as the holiday itself?
“It’s important that my daughter feels like her birthday is special and important, period,” says Tara Gerner, creator of Feels Like Home, whose daughter has a Christmas birthday. “There is no comparison with Christmas, and that’s the key.” Ahead, find some more ways to achieve this balance in order to make sure that your child feels seen and celebrated on their birthday, no matter when it may fall.
Talk About Birthday Planning Early With Your Christmas Child
It’s important to make sure that your child feels that their birthday is special in its own way. “Somewhere between 3 and 5 years, children begin to have expectations about how their birthday will be celebrated,” explains licensed psychologist Jill Jacobson, PhD, a parent counseling and support specialist at Kentlands Psychotherapy in Gaithersburg, MD. “Around this age, a child is likely to put together that when Emily had her birthday, there was a party with cake and games, so on my birthday, there will be a party with cake and games.”
For this reason, Dr. Jacobson says that it’s crucial to discuss expectations with your child so they
are prepared for how their birthday might be different since it falls on such a big holiday. “A conversation at the younger ages might be something like, ‘Your birthday is coming up! You’re going to be 4! How should we celebrate?’ and give them a chance to respond,” suggests Dr. Jacobson. “Older kids and teens are likely to have more opinions about the timing of their party, how they want their birthday celebrated on the day itself, etc.”
By having these conversations early, your child will have a general idea of what’s to come when the day arrives. This can help manage their expectations, and hopefully, avoid scenarios of disappointment.
Ways to Separate Your Child’s Birthday From Christmas
Making a distinction between your child’s birthday and Christmas can help ensure that they feel the former is just as special as the latter. If you choose this route, there are a number of strategies you can use. Here are some ideas.
Plan Your Child’s Party on a Different Day—or Even Have Two
When her daughter was growing up, Gerner made sure to never have her birthday celebration on December 25. “They have always been two entirely different days,” she shares.
A way to guarantee this distinction is to have a birthday party on your child’s half-birthday in June instead. “When my daughter was under 9 years old, we did something big with presents and a party for her friends on her half-birthday, and just had cake and ice cream with family for her actual birthday in December,” Gerner shares.
Avoid Joint Gifts, and Steer Clear of Christmas-Themed Wrapping Paper
One of the keys to creating a successful separation, Gerner says, is essentially forgetting that the birthday is around Christmas altogether. “Use birthday wrapping paper and birthday decorations. Buy presents that are birthday presents only, instead of combined birthday and Christmas presents,” Gerner suggests. “Don’t allow family to slip the birthday presents in on Christmas Day in order to avoid a separate trip to your house.” This way, there are no possible misconceptions that your child’s birthday was forgotten or overlooked in favor of Christmas.
Talk to Relatives
Once you have set your child’s expectations around their Christmas birthday, giving your relatives a heads up about what’s expected will make disappointment less likely.
Since her family lives within driving distance, Gerner always held a birthday party for her daughter the weekend after the holiday itself. “Everyone was expected to come for cake and ice cream even though they had just come for Christmas,” says Gener, who also made the “no joint anything” rule very clear.
All that said, Dr. Jacobson cautions that you can’t always control how others will act, so it’s important to be prepared for anything. “Consider how you and/or your child might handle it if things don’t go exactly as you had planned or hoped for,” she says. “You can model how to be flexible and resilient for your child both in the moment and in reflecting on it afterward.”
Benefits of Having a Christmas Birthday
Having your child’s birthday fall on or around Christmas isn’t all bad, says Dr. Jacobson, and it’s important to acknowledge that with your child if they express disappointment. “For a Christmas birthday, it’s important to consider that there are advantages, too,” she notes. “For example, it’s pretty cool that you get to celebrate your birthday with the extended family who’s already in town for the holiday.”
And if you choose not to create two entirely distinct celebrations (or a few spacey relatives don’t follow the rules), there are benefits that can come from that as well. “Some people might not give you a separate birthday gift or use birthday paper, but you may get some bigger, more expensive joint gifts that you wouldn’t otherwise get!” Dr. Jacobson points out.
If your child is still on the fence, you can use other resources to show them the special aspects of having a Christmas birthday. “Barnes and Noble has a list of books for kids with December birthdays,” shares Dr. Jacobson. “This could be a nice way to start conversations if kids have strong feelings about their holiday birthday.”
A Word From Verywell
Christmas may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but your child’s birthday is an incredibly
special and momentous day too, and it’s important to distinguish between them if they fall around the same time. Discussing your child’s expectations for their birthday beforehand can prepare them for what to expect. Additionally, consider taking steps to separate the occasions, such as holding two parties, avoiding joint gifts and Christmas-themed wrapping paper, and communicating your expectations to any friends or relatives involved in the celebration.
At the same time, having a Christmas birthday can be an opportunity for your child to celebrate in ways they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s what your child wants, especially as they get older. The goal is to make their day as special as possible.
Expert Contributor to this article was Jill B. Jacobson, Ph.D. (Oct 2022), Psychologist, Parenting Support Therapist at Kentlands Psychotherapy. If you wold like to learn more about her services to support parents, call us at (240) 252-3349. Jill loves to support, empower, and uplift parents in their relationship with their children.