Happy Thanksmabirthday-christmakah! The Holiday Birthday Struggle

Happy Thanksmabirthdaychristmakah! This year, my daughter will be celebrating her sixth.

HappyThanksmabirthdaychristmakah.jpgAt my first OB appointment when I got pregnant with my daughter I was told her due date was November 15. Perfect, I thought, too late for Halloween and too early for the holidays. Except she was almost two weeks late and she arrived the day before Thanksgiving. My mom cooked a turkey and delivered it to us in the hospital the next day. My postpartum Percocet went nicely with my mashed potatoes and gravy.

Since then her birthday has been the week of Thanksgiving. One year I am sure her birthday will fall on Thanksgiving. This makes things tricky for us because immediately after her birthday comes Hanukkah, which we celebrate, and Christmas, which we also celebrate, all within five weeks of each other.

There are three kinds of problems all this Happy Thanksmabirthdaychristmakah causes:

  • The managing of gifts
  • The party dilemma
  • Balancing the holiday obligations with her birthday

First, gifts. You can see that within five weeks she has three opportunities for gifts. With an aunt, two uncles, four grandparents, Santa and birthday presents, things can get a bit out of control. We have handled this differently depending on the year. One year we had a birthday party for her and said no gifts. One year she received a larger gift for her birthday from my parents and a smaller one (related to the first gift) for Christmas. I try to find gifts that “go together” (for example, a doll and then a doll dress, or a shirt and then the matching skirt) and separate them out between holidays.  I also, honestly, try to give her less for her birthday and Christmas knowing Hanukkah is always right in between the two.

Next is the birthday party dilemma. As I said, we’ve done one party without gifts that was just a playdate after school during the week. The year her brother was born we did one with gifts. One year we traveled to see all four grandparents and she had no party with her friends but two separate little parties with family. The hard part is always finding a weekend to have a party with friends. Too soon and we’re backing up into Halloween. Too late and the holiday madness has started. Over Thanksgiving vacation no one is home to attend or has holiday plans. I’ve found feeling out others about their plans and having smaller get togethers usually works best due to the timing of her birthday.

The last thing that gets tricky is balancing celebrating her birthday with all of the other holiday events going on over Thanksgiving. This year there is a tree lighting and dinner with Santa I thought would be fun. But it fell on her birthday. So I asked her – do you want to celebrate your birthday with Santa or do you want to stay home with mom and dad and your brother and have cupcakes? And she chose cupcakes.

BirthdayI’ve found the easiest way to manage a birthday and holidays so close together is to remain flexible and open to ideas that don’t necessarily scream “Happy Birthday!” Maybe one year she’ll choose a tree lighting and that’s fine, it’s her birthday. Maybe one year we’ll be eating Tinker Bell birthday cake instead of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.  Maybe one year we’ll have a birthday party with Santa. The most important thing on her birthday is that she’s shown how much she’s loved. That will never be difficult to do.


How do you celebrate your child’s holiday birthday?

Meg is a working mom of four and an avid community volunteer. She has worked in corporate communications and media relations for more than 18 years, for a Fortune 500 company as well as a non-profit. She took some time off to enjoy life as a stay at home mom after the birth of her first child in 2008. Her sweet, introverted daughter, was excited to welcome her baby brother in 2013, and then boy/girl twins joined the family in 2016. Meg finds being an “office mama” a constant balancing act and never-ending challenge but enjoys the opportunities it offers her for personal growth. A Virginia girl at heart, she loves Florida’s warm weather, the great quality of life Jacksonville offers her family.


  1. Great post! Liam’s birthday is 12/17, so I’m right in the middle of trying to figure out what to do. Thankfully, he’s still small enough to not have too much of an opinion, but I know in the coming years, we’re going to have to do a lot managing expectations.

  2. I can relate to this…my birthday is 11/29, and our 11 month-old’s is 12/4. Growing up, my parents took the same tact as the author…sometimes my parties were holiday-related (a carriage ride to look at Christmas lights in St. Augustine, for ex) and sometimes we just celebrated as a family. Planning our son’s 1st birthday party this year was tough with the craziness of holiday schedules…we finally chose the Sunday after T’giving and whoever can make it, makes it. It’s such a busy time of year! And yes, it’s going to be gift-overload:)

    • I LOVE the idea of the horse drawn carriage ride in St. Augustine! We’re doing a Painting With a Twist party this year with everyone getting to paint a Christmas tree. I’m totally stealing the St. A idea for next year though! Score!

  3. I can so relate to this article. My hubby and I always said we would never have kids in December since his is the 9th and mine the 16th…the good Lord blessed us with our first baby on December 20, 2002. Then came our daughter in November 2005…so there we have all four of us within 5 weeks of each other! Then came our lil blessing in April 2012…how do you celebrate a spring birthday?!
    I told some friends once that if they gave my child a gift for his birthday and said it was for both birthday and Christmas they would no longer be my friend…its not his fault his birthday is so close to Christmas. We have “rules” for gifts for birthdays, they can’t be wrapped in Christmas themed paper, no gifts that are Christmas themed (I received a snowman sweatshirt for my birthday one year…those with June birthdays don’t get themed shirts…think about that), the birthday gift can not be part of another gift (like shirt for birthday, pants for Christmas…there again think of the June birthday people…that would be a long time to wait for the entire outfit!) As far as birthday parties…well…5 days before Christmas kind of stinks. No one has time to celebrate a birthday and when we lived in KY it snowed and no one showed up! Now we let him pick…a party or a special family outing. Last year we surprised him with a trip to medieval times(a dinner show). This year he wants another family outing…hoping he will want parties with friends again someday but know he’s tired of being disappointed when his best buds can’t show up due to other obligations. No, we don’t do half-birthdays either…everyone wants to feel special on their birthday so we do what we have to do.

  4. My son has a Christmas week birthday. We stay flexible too. Last year it was a costume party on a Saturday with family, one year it was a zoo trip with one friend. This year he has asked to go camping so we are camping in a cabin locally on his birthday and then in the Spring with friends we will have a celebration and camping trip.
    Gifts are hard because people tend to wrap birthday gifts in Christmas paper or hold onto them until Christmas. We are careful to separate the two events so we ask that he not open birthday and Christmas gifts on the same day.

  5. Our 5th child’s birthday is Thanksgiving week, and we just added birthday cake to this year’s feast. My youngest brother’s birthday is December 26th. I don’t always give him a Christmas gift, but I make sure I give him a birthday gift, wrapped in something NOT holiday themed. My birthday gets short shrift in January because people are recovering from holidays the weeks prior.


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