Child with Christmas birthdayLike most parents of children born during the holiday season, I promised myself I wouldn’t let my child’s December birthday get swept up with other winter festivities. We’ve tried different ways of celebrating before finding the one that works for us. While no solution is perfect, there tends to be a perfect solution for each family. Sometimes it just takes a while to figure out which one suits yours.

Proceed as Usual

One popular choice is to celebrate the birthday as close to the actual date as possible and ignore the holiday. If the child likes Star Wars, then have a Star Wars-themed party. It takes advance planning and extra time over the holidays but for many kids, it means so much.

“I love it! I get triple the presents!” says 7-year-old Grant Heinberg. His mother usually holds his party as close to Dec. 22, his actual birthday, as possible. “I have the most luck planning his friend party on the last day of school. People are still around and not on vacation or with relatives yet,” she says. She usually has the party somewhere other than her home to remove some of the stress.

Jessica Mancuso has always had her son’s Dec. 17 birthday party near the actual day. “The only disadvantage is that on the years where we have big parties, he gets tons of presents all at once and gets overwhelmed. But he loves that time of year so much that it doesn’t really faze him,” she says.

Embrace the Built-in Theme

Another option is to stop searching for Tinker Bell cups or a Darth Vader centerpiece and consider that the Christmas holiday lends itself to party themes and decorations. If you host it at home, put a twist on traditional games: pin the star on the tree or play musical chairs with Christmas music. Partygoers can decorate cookies or make ornaments as a craft. If you choose to take the party out, make use of holiday entertainment in your area. Plan an ice- skating party, have the kids go caroling, or take them to a holiday play.

Cindy McCann embraced the holiday theme for her daughter, born on Dec. 22. One year she purchased small Norfolk Island pine trees in containers. The kids made ornaments and took the decorated trees home as a party favor. Another time the girls had relay races with shaving cream and decorated her relatives (good sports dressed in red) like Santa. They’ve also been to a local production of The Nutcracker. “We recognize the fact that Christmas is right around the corner, so we incorporate the season but still make it about the birthday girl,” McCann says.

Half-birthday Party

Some families prefer to spread out the fun. Kelley Nelson used to plan her daughter’s celebration on June 22 to commemorate her half birthday. “One year I made a half- birthday cake that was half lion and half zebra,” she says. “I usually made some joke about Santa or Christmas in her June invitation and explained that it was her half birthday.”

You can incorporate the holiday theme in a summer birthday. Have Santa drop by or play Christmas music. Kids will enjoy playing traditional Christmas games in June. And this is probably the only time when it’s not only okay, but actually funny to use Christmas paper to wrap birthday presents!

A half birthday helps with the cluster of gifts that arrive in December and adds variety. It takes stress off the parents during the holidays and lets kids enjoy something different.

Later Birthdays

Our family has finally settled on a January party. The Christmas rush is over and we can focus on our daughter and her special day. As she says, “It doesn’t seem so much like Christmas; it’s more about my birthday.” January is a socially quiet month; people are usually available.

We host a family party with cousins and grandparents early in December, making her birthday celebration a month-long event—another bonus for her.

Christmas Day Birthdays

This is perhaps the toughest birth date of the year. By necessity, part of it is spent watching other people open gifts. No matter how hard parents may try, usually the focus is on Christmas.

Stacy Leonard only celebrated her daughter’s Dec. 25 birthday once on the actual day. “There is a photo taken of me that day that says it all,” she says. “I’m sitting in a chair, sound asleep. We had Christmas morning, church, Christmas dinner, birthday cake, and presents. It was too exhausting. That was the last time we celebrated her birthday on Christmas day.”

Now they celebrate her birthday one or two weeks before Christmas. They pick the day in advance; it’s entirely spent celebrating Meredith’s birthday. On Christmas Day, they focus on Christmas.

Work with Your Child

When it comes to holiday birthday celebrations, no one solution is perfect for everyone. Some kids resist celebrating on any day but their actual birthday while some enjoy having a day that doesn’t involve the holiday. It may take a few years to get it right or the answer may come easily. It’s a tough time to have a birthday, but it’s a magical time too.

Tips from Kids with Holiday Birthdays

  • No “Merry Birthdaymas” gifts. Everyone deserves separate birthday recognition.
  • Family parties often occur on the birthday’s child’s big day. Encourage family members to recognize the birthday separately: sing Happy Birthday, have a cake, give separate presents (in birthday wrapping paper, not Christmas paper.)
  • Serve birthday cake even if the celebration is on Christmas day.
  • Plan the party early. Weekends fill up quickly in December and many people travel over the holidays. Keep in mind that some friends may not be able to make it.
  • Let them choose their favorite meal or restaurant for their birthday dinner, if possible.

Bonus Thoughts

  • Your daughter’s party dress can double as a Christmas dress.
  • Family is usually already around for the party.
  • As your child gets older, “birthdaymas” gifts can be one big gift (e.g. fancy electronics or expensive jewelry) rather than two smaller gifts.
  • You can cherish the memory of holding a treasured newborn while watching snow gently fall and lights twinkle. It puts all the craziness of the holiday season in perspective and it’s a gift to every mother with a Christmas baby.

Laura Amann is a freelance writer who not only celebrates her daughter’s birthday in December, but four other family members’ birthdays as well.