I always woke up early on Christmas Day when I was a child.
I’m a light sleeper but no matter what time I opened my eyes, I had a collection of presents by my bed.
My older brother, William, had one small stack of goodies, however, I always had two piles.
I am a Christmas Day baby, but – unlike a lot of other people who celebrate their birthday during the festive period – I actually love having it at this time of year.
I wasn’t meant to be born on Christmas Day. I was actually two months premature, with my mum telling me the story of how stunned she was to find her waters had broken very late on Christmas Eve.
I was the first baby born in Hammersmith Hospital on 25 December 1953. In fact, my middle name is Mary because of this – though my mum did consider calling me Noella (thank goodness she didn’t).
Because I was the first baby born on Christmas that year, the hospital gifted my mum with a Rosebud doll, which I still have nearly 69 years later. It desperately needs a visit to the Repair Shop – it’s so old, all its clothes have disintegrated – but I know how much it meant to my mum, so I’ve kept it all this time.
Growing up, my parents worked hard to ensure I felt special.
We didn’t have lots of money, but they always made sure I had separate presents. They would sit at the end of my bed as I opened my extra ones first, so I got my moment as the birthday girl.
I loved the festive run up to Christmas too, as it meant people were always in a good mood.
At Christmas parties as a teenager, there would always be that agonising moment when someone would call for a hush and there would be a toast, and people would sing ‘happy birthday’ to me. It was embarrassing, but I did secretly quite enjoy it – particularly when people bought me drinks after.
There are a few downsides though. My immediate family and close friends still make an effort to make sure my special day is celebrated alongside Christmas, but a lot of other friends don’t bother with it.
I’ve always liked to have separate cards, but a lot of the time I just get one Christmas card with ‘and happy birthday’ as a hastily scrawled afterthought.
More often than not, I get a joint presents too. It’s never about how much a gift is worth, but I know that if I was born during any other time of the year, I’d get separate presents.
When I had my children, Matthew and Kimberley, my birthday took a backseat. When they were young, I would get more joy seeing their excitement on their little faces than I did at opening my own presents.
Even though they’re both grown up now, it means so much to me that they travel back to Slough from London. Christmas is all about being with family and it’s a bonus that it’s the anniversary of my birth, too.
On Christmas Day each year, I get up at 5am to start preparing the roast. I don’t mind the early start – I enjoy cooking the Christmas dinner because I get to choose what we have on my special day, and I know I get to be with my family.
My daughter asked me if I’d ever fancy going to the pub one year, but it’s too expensive and nothing beats just being at home.
My children don’t like Christmas cake, so we have a birthday cake that Kimberley buys. She tends to buy my favourite – a coffee and walnut cake.
Last year, Matthew decided to break tradition and buy me a cake too. It was great, as I was eating it all the way up to new year, so the celebrations felt longer than ever! (Kimberley, if you are reading this, I want a red velvet one this year.)
As much as I love the overlap of days, there have been some difficult ones. A week before Christmas in 2016, I fell over in Marks and Spencer’s and broke my hand. I was determined to still cook Christmas dinner, so I woke Matthew up at 5am to help.
Two years later, I slipped on an icy patch and sprained my wrist days before Christmas – slipping on snow is probably not something summer-born babies tend to deal with.
There’s only been one birthday where I’ve not had my family all around me. Coronavirus stopped Matthew and his girlfriend from coming down, but because I live on my own, Kimberley was able to form a bubble with me so I wasn’t alone.
We managed a Zoom call and while Matthew toasted me with a glass of prosecco, Kimberley and I enjoyed mugs of tea. We still had a big dinner, then Kimberley and I watched Bridgerton before falling asleep on the sofa watching reruns of the Vicar of Dibley.
It was still a wonderful day, even though I couldn’t see my son in person.
I know some people born on Christmas Day choose to celebrate their birthday at a different time, but I genuinely wouldn’t change when I was born. It’s lovely knowing I will have my family there no matter what.
I wouldn’t change it for the world.
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