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)

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    ICT Teacher

    £21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified ...

    DT Design and Technology Teacher

    £21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently for ...

    Maths Teacher

    £21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienc...

    Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

    £26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on