Dos and Don’ts for Thanksgiving and Christmas Birthdays

I married a woman whose birthday often falls on Thanksgiving, and she’ll be the first to tell you that growing up royally sucked. A birthday between Thanksgiving and Christmas often means children don’t get the attention that other children get because so much family energy is consumed during the holidays. Here are a few tips on how to make the day special.

Don’t combine holidays unless the child says it’s okay

From a logistical point of view, I understand. The family is already dropping in to eat and/or exchange gifts. Why not simplify a hectic time by combining everything into one?

Because that makes it pretty clear where the priorities lie. No child can match the spectacle of a Thanksgiving dinner or a Christmas party. While all children need to learn to share, they can rightly feel offended when they are asked to play sideshows each year. It’s not like a ten-year-old on his birthday can arrange a trip with friends on another day.

So please talk to your child about the calendar schedule and take their concerns seriously. They may be open to compromise if you involve them in the process rather than dictating the rules for their special day. And hey, kids are weird and sometimes they like the combined holidays. What they don’t like is not having a choice.

Set current expectations and plan early

There is no way around the fact that holidays and children’s birthday parties can become expensive and both together can put a strain on the family’s resources. One way to get around this is to tell a child that they can have a big present on either Christmas or their birthday, but not both.

Side note: If your children still believe in Santa Claus, for the love of all things please make sure you give them only one modest gift from him and the rest is clearly marked as from family. It saves a lot of questions about why Santa Claus hates poor children and teaches them to be thankful to their parents instead of a magical winter fairy.

Another move is to plan and save for the birthday gift earlier in the year so it doesn’t come during the holiday crunch. When they’re older, your kids will appreciate the effort you put into making them have a happy birthday.

DO NOT plan a party

November and December birthday parties for kids are a nightmare. Many of their friends won’t even be in town, or their parents will be too busy to lug them around.

I recommend trying to find something that the basic family unit can do without worrying about planning a bunch of kids. Trips to the zoo, arcade, or trampoline park are much easier to put together. Chances are you can get at least one of your child’s friends to come along, creating a miniature party atmosphere. Plus, letting your child choose an outing like this gives your child a sense of control over their day. Bonus if you can hit a restaurant or place that does a piece of cake and a song.

Oh, and definitely don’t wrap birthday presents in Christmas wrapping paper. That’s a statement of priorities as subtle as a brick.

Don’t pawn holiday meals as birthday meals

No matter how many desserts are prepared in your house during the holidays, your child deserves a birthday cake. Period. Yes, even if they like the pumpkin pie you make at other times.

There’s an enduring joke that we cook in the kitchen for three days just to watch our kids eat nothing but rolls, and it doesn’t get any better when you deny a kid their favorite food for their birthday. I know it’s annoying to prep a pot of fly noodles or whatever your kid’s favorite meal is when you already have three meat dishes and seven side dishes on the table, but it’s a reminder that you’re also around other holidays take care of her birthday suck up your time.

In the end, it’s important to realize that on public holidays, birthday kids will wonder why they never get the kind of attention they see in other months. Yes, the sheer amount of resources being (literally) gobbled up by the holidays will make meeting your child’s birthday expectations more of a challenge, but let them know that you’re going to at least try.


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