The Issue of Sharing a Birthday with Jesus

I was born on Christmas Eve. I basically share a birthday with Jesus. As a child I was resentful of Jesus because most people cared more about his birthday than mine. The entire village would gather at the church to celebrate his birthday. Some of them would tell anecdotes about his birth, about how he was born in a stable and got some slightly quirky gifts. No-one wanted to talk about my birth. I was born in a bed in a hospital.

People would sing jolly songs about Jesus and his mum and his mum’s womb. And then local children would fetch tiny effigies of Jesus and his mum and her birthing partners, some of whom were actual cows, and place them carefully together at the front of the church. No-one thought to create a tiny effigy of me.

Afterwards the village would decant to a nearby home where someone would be throwing a party in honour of Jesus’ birthday. Often it would be my own family. On those days, in the heady punchy fug of mulled wine fumes, my mum would make her frantic preparations. She was aware that a neighbourly hoard was about to descend on her and judge her on her interior design choices and her honey-glazed cocktail sausages. Sausages which were glazed because it was Jesus’ birthday.

At the end of these festivities at last Jesus would step aside and the party would sing Happy Birthday to me. There are lots of lovely things that can happen to someone on their birthday, having Happy Birthday sung to them is not one of them. It’s awkward. It raises questions. I’ve never known what expression to wear during it. I’ve never established where to look when there’s no cake to focus on. After Happy Birthday the party would end and everyone would go home. But the celebrations would continue into the next day. Which was Jesus’ birthday.

When people discover now that I was born on Christmas Eve they wince, understanding the tribulations that come with sharing a birthday with a big birthday-hog like Jesus. But the truth is that for all the sense of being sidelined or feeling like the occasional victim of a joint birthday-Christmas present swindle, a Christmas Eve birthday has always been a special day.

I have never been at school on my birthday. I have never been at work on my birthday. I have never had to commute or carry out mundane errands. I have always been surrounded by people who have some kind of affection for me. In the rambunctious days of my late teens and early twenties, Christmas Eve became less about Jesus and more about meeting up with old friends and getting shitfaced.

So if you are a Christmas baby or the parent of a Christmas baby (that doesn’t include you Mary and God/Joseph), then perhaps dwell less on the unfortunate consequences of a festive birthdate and more on the unique potential of it. And at least no-one is going to sing about your mum’s womb.

Any good?

An Idiot Dad’s Guide to Pass The Parcel

I performed my first ‘pass the parcel’ at the Major’s fourth birthday recently. I never knew it could be so difficult.

My memory of the game as a child is mostly negative. That it brought out the worst in its participants. And that it was a format easily corrupted by acquisitive little shits trying the game the system by lingering on the parcel as it made its journey round the group. I was determined that the Major’s party games wouldn’t descend into acrimony and tantrums so took the necessary steps. I may have overthought it.

To ensure that every attendee at least a minor sense of victory we included a small treat within each layer of wrapping and enough layers so that each child got a treat. The result was a hugely bulbous package. We had in effect turned a light-hearted moment of fun into a test of endurance. There were children suffering repetitive strain injury in their tiny hands, having been forced to the lug the monster parcel around again and again. It was a pass the parcel-athon. Some of the kids were passing around sponsorship forms to raise money from their efforts.

As the package dwindled in size so did the interest. Before long the circle was on the brink of breaking up, attention drifting off to the bouncy castle or a nearby sausage roll or a white-painted wall. We avoided tears of disappointment but replaced them with tears of boredom.

We tried to get clever with the music. Instead of a simple portable CD-player we placed a wireless speaker in the centre of the circle in the hope of creating an immersive sonic experience for the competitors. It actually sounded more like a tiny man singing from the next suburb. No wonder eyes were looking towards the emergency exits. One of the kids called me DJ Fire Alarm. When the music stopped it was almost inaudible; often I had to explain that it had stopped to the baffled circle.

The knack of stopping the music in pass the parcel is to do so when then the package is squarely in one pair of hands. If the stop happens while there are four mitts on the parcel then there’s a real risk of controversy about ownership. I envisaged having to build an elaborate system of mirrors in order to time pressing the pause button without anyone noticing but in actuality I stood in plain sight adjacent to the ring. Nobody was looking at me, too enrapt in sausage rolls.

Much to everyone’s relief after a few exhausting hours the game ended. The prize had landed in the hands of a little boy who immediately donated it to the Major. At first I thought fatigue had scrambled his mind. But it seemed that he was simply observing a protocol unknown to me that the birthday boy should take the spoils. In any case it was a charming gesture. It seems that some kids aren’t acquisitive after all. And I had definitely overthought it.

Any good?