A very merry birthday: The festive season can leave those born on 25 December feeling short-changed

Christmas baby Joanna Biddolph offers a guide to celebrating with sensitivity

I was 24 when I first had a birthday cake. While on holiday with cousins in America, an ice-cream cake with magic candles emerged from the freezer at midnight on Christmas Eve. Unused to the attention, I blushed when a champagne cork popped and three voices sang "Happy Birthday". Then there were the birthday presents, wrapped in non-Christmassy paper, and birthday cards too. Celebrating on the 24th left the next day free for Christmas without brushing my birthday aside, so in the years since, my parents have adopted this night-before-the-morning-after routine – though, as a child I opened my birthday presents on Christmas Day.

This isn't a sob story. I don't miss birthday cake, and my family and friends have always been doubly generous over the years. One friend always sings "Happy Birthday" down the phone, interrupting her day to make mine. And yet, like many people born on 25 December, my birthday has never felt my own. It's an adjunct to a bigger event from which I feel strangely apart, an observer. It's my day, but snatching some of it for myself seems selfish. Instead I watch, wondering what it's like to celebrate Christmas so freely, unencumbered by a birthday.

Perhaps I should have done as Jo Scott-Dalgleish, 42, a nutritionist from Chiswick, west London, did. On her ninth Christmas-birthday she threw a tantrum as she felt she wasn't getting "a proper birthday". Since then she's celebrated at 8pm (when she was born) with a toast, then dinner. Birthday presents happen the next day.

On a flight back from Cyprus four years ago, I met Clare Morgan, now a retired air hostess living in the New Forest, and delighted in discovering she was born on the same day and in the same year as me (we'll both be 54 this December). Of course, we compared notes. It's what we Christmas babies do. After stockings and Christmas presents in the morning, she would sit at the head of the table at lunch with her grandparents. At 4pm, the time of her birth, the whole family was expected to watch her open her birthday presents and share birthday cake. The turkey then followed in the evening. But what happens now that she's a parent with children for whom Christmas is the priority? "I'm lucky if I get a 'Happy birthday, mum,'" she laughs.

It isn't only those of us born on 25 December who feel ambivalent about the festive season. Late-December babies in general all share the same indignations, and over the years I have gathered many opinions on how we would prefer to celebrate our birthdays. Wrapping gifts in snowmen-and-reindeer paper is the biggest sin. As we see it, we aren't asking for much and, as one super-organised 60-something born on the 22 December birthday recently told me, our friends have got all year to do it.

Giving joint Christmas-and-birthday presents brings mixed responses from us, even though there's the chance to "snaffle something at slightly higher than double the value" as one person put it. Opinion is divided on adding birthday greetings to Christmas cards. It's lovely to be acknowledged, but it's still not a birthday card, we say. However, we do appreciate well-chosen cards – and tend to send more birthday cards than we receive. I loved getting hard-to-find, all-in-one Christmas-birthday cards from an aunt in Hong Kong, and look forward to family-friend Jane Tarrant's birthday wishes in her Christmas card to me.

Jane will be 79 on 27 December, which she says is "a bloody awful day to have a birthday. Everyone has had enough of wining and dining".

By New Year's Eve friends are back in the mood for a party and, in one family of my acquaintance, decorations come down a day early to honour a Twelfth Night birthday. But Jennie Milsom, a food writer from Southwark, south London, feels her 15 January birthday "is a bit close [to Christmas]. No one has any money in January for going out and celebrating".

For going out and celebrating is what most of us want to do. So, as very few friends can spare the time just before Christmas, and don't have the cash or the inclination afterwards, we want to do it in June. Jo Scott-Dalgleish leads the pack again, with "the institution called my half-birthday", a special weekend that includes dinner out and a trip to the theatre. As a child, Darren Field, 43, a greengrocer from Isleworth, west London, also often got a present on 24 June in recognition of his Christmas Eve birthday.

There are always exceptions. With a large Greek Cypriot family, Andreas Georghiou, 43, a shopkeeper from Chiswick, was guaranteed a lot of attention on his childhood Boxing Day birthdays. These days his birthday is irrelevant; it's a rare day with his children. Plus, he adds, parties are out of the question: "Trying to get people together is really hard – they're always committed to their own families."

Of all similar dates, Jo Scott-Dalgleish thinks "it's preferable to be born on Christmas Day" and I agree. Georghiou has "always felt privileged" that his birthday fell on Boxing Day. Darren Field works on his Christmas Eve birthday but falls into the pub to celebrate with friends, never buying a round. We all like having birthdays that are talking points. Don't feel sorry for us; as Clare Morgan says, "we don't know any different". Happy Christmas!

Famous Christmas birthdays

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, below, (23 Dec 1967)

Lemmy (24 Dec 1945)

Stephanie Meyer (24 Dec 1973)

Humphrey Bogart (25 Dec 1899)

Karl Rove (25 Dec 1950)

Helena Christensen (25 Dec 1968)

Dido (25 Dec 1971)

Jared Leto (26 Dec 1971)

David Sedaris (26 Dec 1956)

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Commercial Litigation NQ+

    Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...


    Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

    Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

    Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

    £90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?