This story was originally published in the November 2017 issue of Richmond magazine.

The holidays are all about love and family, so why do some folks feel neglected during that time?

For some of our loved ones, it has nothing to do with the holidays — and everything to do with birthdays. If their birthday falls between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, what’s supposed to be one of the most joyous times of the year can be tough.

I say this from experience, as exactly half of the birthdays in our family of six occur in the last few weeks of the year.

I thought my family always enjoyed having birthdays around the holidays, thanks to an abundance of holiday cheer. But as I contemplate another season of holidays and birthdays, I had to ask myself if they feel the same.

Given my youngest son’s age, birthdays are simply an opportunity to geta little more attention than usual. And while we’re not a materialistic family, we still make sure we don’t let timing get in the way of him getting the same kind of birthday, Christmas and Hanukkah presents he’d get if his birthday were in the spring or summer.

But if my teenaged son’s experience is any indication, the euphoria of a birthday AND Christmas AND Hanukkah all rolled into one, may soon fade. Because for this son, birthdays don’t always carry the sense of celebration that many of us get to enjoy when we don’t have to share our special day with a national holiday.

I think my middle son resigned himself long ago to the notion that having a real birthday party wasn’t a viable option for him because of the time of the year. He realized that a lot of stuff takes place during the holidays, both in our family and home, and in his friends’ homes.

I asked him how he felt about his birthdays. To my dismay he said, “I don’t remember having any real birthday parties in New Jersey.” The only one he remembered that was “super fun” was when his mom, brother, grandmother, aunt and one friend went go-karting. “That was a fun experience. But the only parties were at school, really.”

I guess it’s been this way for him for a long time. I thought we needed to somehow make his holiday birthday partya bigger deal, but in reality, he long ago realized a party with friends during that time of the year would be tough, and he was content to just have fun going out with his family.

There may be a light at the end of the holiday birthday tunnel.

My wife’s birthday falls near Thanksgiving. She remembers always being able to celebrate her birthday with lots of family members at the house for dinner. Always one to see the positive, my wife believes that one of the things that made her birthdays special was that they gave her so many wonderful memories with her grandparents, who were often there for the holiday.

Read the rest at Richmond magazine. 

Illustration by Rachel Maves