On Being a Christmas Baby

Yes, it’s true. I am a Christmas Baby. It says so on my driver’s license which I’m regularly asked to produce to prove I’m really me. More often than not, the checker or bank teller notices and says, “Oh, a Christmas baby! (…wait for it) I’ll bet you get gypped every year.” Au contraire. I am doubly blessed.

It turns out we Christmas babies are fairly rare relative to those born in other months and on non-holidays. So that makes me feel very rare and unique! I’ve heard over and over the stories about how my mother’s water broke while trimming the Christmas tree, how her obstetrician wore a Santa hat, how she almost spelled my name Merry [whew!! dodged a bullet there], how my dad tied pink ribbons around cigars that had Christmas bands on them and handed them out to strangers on the street. Ah, yes. A good time was had by all.

As for me, I always enjoy my Christmas/birthday. As a child I was told by the nuns how blessed I was to be born on the same day as the Christ Child. And the religious element — advent calendars, crèche, midnight Mass, the priest’s white vestments — were a huge part of the celebration back in the day. But I’m not so much there anymore.

I’m a matriarch now, presiding over the most wonderful group of human beings ever to live on this earth — four children, thirteen grandchildren, two great-grandchildren (and more to come in that generation, the next one next April). Each is a perfect and unique individual, adding to the wonder and richness and magic of my family. They are who I celebrate, their presence in my life, the endless joy and surprises and achievements in their lives, their lovely faces and their beautiful beings. And on what better day to do that? My birthday! Christmas!

I approach my birthday on Christmas with anticipation, reveling in the festive and uplifting atmosphere of joy, lights, carols, tree decorating, holiday parties, filling stockings. Our family tradition is that each chooses the menu for their birthday dinner. I always order up a huge roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings and my husband cooks it. I lay out a festive table, spending time on centerpieces. Our family gathers to feast, I blow out birthday candles, and then we all take selfies with spoons hanging off our noses. What could be better?

Here’s what makes it better. Beneath and around and through it all there is a sublime air of stillness. It’s as if the world pauses to simply radiate serenity and brotherly love. There’s an aura, a tangible awakening of the senses, a fragrance of the special and the sacred. The soft glow of luminarias lining driveways and ledges, neighborhood carolers, feasting and celebrating, and the presence of those I love the most are the gifts this season brings me.

This also makes it better. We call it the Annual Hanging of the Spoons.

Presents? Yes, there are some, but they pale and disappear in the brightness of a season of beauty and hope. And I am lucky enough to have been born on a day when most of the world is celebrating. I feel perched atop a family tree that extends endlessly into the future, promising life and vitality, and perhaps remembering a certain Christmas Baby.

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