On Having A Christmas Eve Birthday

I turned 27 about an hour ago. I should be getting some sleep so I don’t end up sleeping through my entire birthday tomorrow, but I wanted to write out a few thoughts tonight while things are quiet.

It’s inevitable when it comes up, whether just as topic for discussion or when someone happens to see your driver’s license.

“Oh, you’re a Christmas Eve baby!” the person will remark.

“I am,” I will say.

The inevitable response: “How much does that suck?”

There are different answers to that question. Some feel that having a birthday on or around Christmas sucks unequivocally. Others feel that it’s the best thing ever.

I guess it all depends on your perspective. Here’s mine:

  • Good: I never had to go to school on my birthday as a kid. Say what you want about getting cookies or cupcakes in class, but I’d rather be home playing video games all day.
  • Bad: I really, really, really hated going to the Christmas Vigil mass on my birthday as a kid.
  • Good: Rather than getting ignored, people tend to remember my birthday more easily. I think this is because there’s already an atmosphere of gift giving in mind, so people are more likely to call/send cards/etc. Also, Christmas Eve sticks out in one’s memory a lot more than a random day in June might.
  • Bad: “This is your Christmas and Birthday present” was something I did hear as a kid, although never from my parents. They were vanguards of keeping gift levels equal between myself and my brother (whose birthday is Halloween, incidentally).
  • Good: Two days of presents was better than one. My birthday became sort of my own little prelude to Christmas as a kid; I’d get some cool stuff and then, instead of ending after the day was over, I would have another day and more cool stuff. This was very exciting as a kid.
  • Bad: It was absolutely impossible to celebrate my birthday with friends since everybody was doing something for the holidays.
  • Good: I once had the most amazing surprise party thrown for me the week after. If you’ve never had a surprise party (especially one you really, really were not expecting, I can tell you it’s awesome and heartwarming). I wasn’t expecting all my friends to be there, because like I said, everybody was always busy with the holidays.
  • Bad: My 21st birthday was kind of awkward because I was hungover for Christmas.

Ultimately, when people ask me “how much does that suck” when they find out my birthday, I don’t bother giving them a straight answer; I might be sarcastic or I might be sappy, but I don’t bother to explain that it has its ups and its downs. I do think that it’s much better to have a near-Christmas birthday before the holiday rather than after; my sympathies go out to the after Christmas birthdays out there, much in the way that the rest of the world does to me.

So today is my birthday. It might not be perfect because everybody else is thinking about the holiday tomorrow, but this day is mine and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s part of me and always has been.

Also I have an absolutely heartwarming story from my birth involving a lady at the hospital and a Christmas stocking large enough to hold a newborn. Yes, I still have the stocking. How many other birthdays have that?

Seasonally Appropriate Responses

It’s only happened once in my life, but I can recall the moment I was verbally assaulted by a customer for responding to an offered “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays.” The crystalline clarity of that exchange has far outlasted most other memories from that early job (grocery store bagging clerk).

It didn’t matter that “Happy Holidays” was the corporate-approved response that we were required to say; I’d have said it regardless, because I’m just that sort of person. I don’t like doing things just because they’re tradition. I like doing them because I like doing them.

Consequently, I also like conducting myself in such a way as to communicate my personal belief that the world does have more than one religion. I think there’s, like, four, based on holidays: Christmas for Christian people, Hanukkah for Jewish people, Winter Solstice for Pagan people, and Kwanzaa for . . . I don’t know what religion celebrates Kwanzaa. Seems a little racist to just say “black people,” you know?

I guess there’s also Boxing Day for Canadian people but finding out the truth about Boxing Day was a big disappointment because I used to imagine there was a holiday dedicated to fist fighting and that made me happy.

However, I do rather like my current job and would prefer to avoid creating irritated customers, which is why I have embraced my current holiday response with enthusiasm. It’s basically a form of verbal Jiu Jitsu, in which you attempt to trap your opponent in a position that they cannot retaliate from. Here’s my brilliant technique:

Customer: “Thanks, and have a Merry Christmas!”

Me: “Likewise!”

Likewise is perfect. It’s unassailable. It tells the person offering their particular well wishing exactly what they want to hear, without actually endorsing any particular holiday. You’ve trapped them in a verbal situation in which they cannot reasonably respond with offense.

Try to imagine such a person getting offended by likewise:

Customer: “Thanks, and have a Merry Christmas!”

Me: “Likewise!”

Customer: “What, you can’t wish me a Merry Christmas? HAVE YOU NO SOUL?”

Me: “What exactly do you think ‘likewise’ means?”

Checkmate. They can’t wriggle out of the fact that you expressed the offered greeting back at them, but you also can’t be held accountable for supporting any particular religious tradition, especially if you work in a secular or corporate establishment where that sort of thing is not policy. If you think this sounds overwhelmingly cynical, you are clearly not a person whose affection for the holidays is lukewarm, at best.

I could probably write a book about this: Christmas for Cynical People. I’m sure it’d be a great stocking stuffer.

12 Days Of A Math Riddle

I hate math problems almost as much as I hate the 12 Days of Christmas. I hate these things for different reasons. With math, it’s because I’m bad at it. I survived high school algebra and precalc by the skin of my teeth and for college, I was able to take a philosophy logic course for math credit (and even then, I still got a D).

I generally don’t like Christmas music anyway, because it seems to constitute a genre of its own and yet it’s entirely stagnant, repetitive and a blend of nostalgia and tradition that seems to exist solely to perpetuate itself. The 12 Days of Christmas is the most repetitive song of them all, which is why it’s my least favorite.

So why am I mentioning these two things?

I’m not sure where I first heard this problem (probably some long-forgotten math class), but here goes: assume that the song lyrics are literal and that you actually receive a partridge in a pear tree on the first day and the second day and the third day and so on. Assume that each gift is considered a singular item (a piper piping is a single gift, even though you’re getting both a pipe and a guy to play that pipe for you). Which of the 12 different gifts will you have the most of at the end of the twelve days?

The answer is posted after the break:

Continue reading “12 Days Of A Math Riddle”