so, there’s no way to know when Jesus was actually born. the date of december 25 was chosen by the church centuries after Jesus’ death, to coincide with / co-opt / piggy-back on a cultural festival. and nobody in the ancient world kept birth-records; they did keep records of when important people died. a saint’s “day” is usually tied to her/his death, not birth.
but the church made december 25 a big deal (in a shrewd move, co-opting / stealing / appropriating a major cultural holiday and making it about the new god, Jesus), and for most of recent memory it’s been a centerpiece of Western cultures. big celebrations. parties. gift-giving. songs. food. families and travel and school vacations. billions of dollars spent.
and – then there’s my birthday.
i was born december 26. my mother, Mary Ann, was in beginning-labor all christmas day. she was a month shy of turning 21, and very pregnant, and she cooked and served a full christmas meal to her parents and new in-laws, in the little married-student housing apartment where she and my father, Richard, lived. they’d only been married about seven months. and she labored all night, and then i was born at 9:10 am the next morning.
i am lucky that in my family of origin and then my first marriage, folks committed to my birthday not being overlooked. Mary Ann made sure i had parties once school was back after the holidays, so party-invitees wouldn’t be away on vacation. i had a separate “birthday tree” at my former in-laws’ house for 30 years – the plastic ficus which they would festoon with garlands and bows, and under which would put my birthday gifts, and we’d have a party for me on my birthday, with a separate meal, and not Xmas dessert, but whatever cake i wanted.
i am absolutely grateful for such considerations … and … the fact remains that there is no preventing the power of christmas to swallow everything near it. (just ask New Year’s.) i don’t blame christmas, any more than i blame an avalanche for destroying a town at the bottom of the mountainside. it’s too big to blame.
and … this applies to all of life.
there are the things which are unavoidable; i can rail against their largeness or unfairness or indignities, but really it’s just How Things Are. i don’t blame christmas; i certainly don’t blame Jesus, who wasn’t even born the day before i was born; i don’t blame anybody. the more i want to pitch a hissy about how unfair christmas is for absorbing my birthday and making me somehow less important, the more i’m preoccupied with shit that is, as we say in Recovery, not within my power to change and which is, therefore, healthier to accept.
i accept that my birthday will forever be a tiny bump on one of the toes of christmas. it’s okay. i’m only a little bitter. only bitter enough to need to write this blog post to process my feelings, as my birthday – and, more inevitably, christmas – approach, like that little village and its avalanche.