Oil splattered onto my abuela’s apron as the schnitzel flipped in the frying pan. My older brothers played with their Hanukkah gifts (Legos, of course), and my mom, whose water just broke, was pissed.
I was supposed to be born on Hanukkah, but, as usual, I was late that December in 1994. Afraid that my birthday would be overshadowed by Jesus and Santa Claus, my poor mom tried her hardest to delay labor, but by 9:44 p.m. on December 25, I couldn’t wait any longer.
“Mazel tov, a Christmas baby!” our rabbi congratulated my parents, throwing salt on the wound that was my untimely birth. With that blessing — much to my mother’s dismay — I was branded a Christmas baby for life.
Growing up, the worst part of my birthday wasn’t the constant, “Oh, a Christmas baby!” remarks from airport security, or the incessant, “Do you get double gifts?” questions. (For the record, yes, I do get double presents. Divorced parents for the win!)
As a birthday grinch, what I most resented was the global Christmas shutdown, which even my Jewish day school was subject to. I just wanted to throw a party in my honor and wear a birthday crown like everybody else, but while my friends experienced a classic Jewish Christmas with Chinese food and movies, my family whisked me away on vacations to soak in the hot Buenos Aires sun with a belly full of medialunas and empanadas.
I know I sound super first world problems-y right now, but hear me out. Every winter break my family traveled to Europe or Argentina to visit my grandparents, and to save money, we’d fly on Christmas, AKA my birthday, and return on New Years. And you know what? Celebrating my birthday and the new year on a plane every year fucking sucked. My existence was reduced to a travel day, and it felt like no one cared about my birthday at all. So I stopped caring about it, too. I could just hear Regina George say, “Stop trying to make your birthday happen, it’s not going to happen.”
But after 25 years of wallowing in self-pity because my birthday paled in comparison to my Jewish enemy Jesus (it’s not even his actual birthday, people!!), I got over it. Jealousy had blinded me from the vivid silver lining of my Jewish Christmas birthday, and it only took a quarter of a century for me to see it.
So what if the global shutdown leaves me with nothing to do but respond to everyone’s birthday messages on social media or text instantaneously? (Sometimes I wait a while to respond to create the illusion that I’m very busy.)
December 25 is the most iconic day of the year, and it’s actually pretty dope that I can claim it as my own. No one ever forgets my birthday, it’s a conversation starter with strangers and new friends, and most importantly, I’m always with my family. As a hormonal teen that last one didn’t really feel like a positive, but as an adult I appreciate that I’ll always be with loved ones on December 25. And that’s what Christmas (and Judaism?) is all about, right?
Here’s the sweet cherry on top, or should I say the Star of David on top of the Christmas tree: On that snowy day when I was born, I was given two middle names — Noa and Hannah — to honor my great-grandmothers. Like me, my great-abuela was born on December 25, and because Hanukkah coincided with Christmas that year, she was named Hannah. Cute, right? Her grandson, my father, was born on Christmas Eve. Even cuter, huh? The point I’m trying to make here is that my Christmas birthday was destiny.
I’ve been told countless times that I look just like my namesake, and our striking similarities feel peculiarly Jewish. At last, I can fully appreciate the Jewish value in my Christmas birthday that I’ve been fighting all along: l’dor v’dor, baby!
p.s. For my “silver birthday,” I’ll be throwing a big birthday bash in NYC in mid-January. Take that, Regina George!
Image by Deidre Schlabs via Unsplash; by bluestocking via Getty Images