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December babies get the short end of the stick, combined gifts

By Stephanie Goldberg, Special to CNN
Julia Payne, now 50, said she often had red and green birthday cakes growing up because she was born on Christmas day.
Julia Payne, now 50, said she often had red and green birthday cakes growing up because she was born on Christmas day.
  • Christmas Birthdays can be made special by not including any holiday decor
  • Some families celebrate half birthday instead, to break up the gift-giving
  • "You just don't want your own special day to disappear into Christmas," a source says
  • Christmas
  • Birthdays
  • Holidays

(CNN) -- Julia Payne has two pet peeves: birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper and birthday cakes decorated with Christmas trees.

She's not a Grinch. She's a Christmas baby.

Payne, who is turning 51 on December 25, said sharing her birthday with Christmas has positives and negatives.

"I can't go to my favorite restaurant on my birthday," but then, she's never had to go to work on her birthday either.

"There were periods when it was hard (growing up) ... but my parents went to extra lengths to make it special," she said.

Rather than simply acknowledging her birthday on Christmas Day, Payne's mother threw her a birthday party each year on the day school let out for winter break.

"There was no Christmas allowed (at the party)," she said. "It was all balloons and streamers and party hats."

But as Payne entered her teen years, the balloons on her birthday cakes were replaced by frosted Christmas trees, wreathes and holly leaves.

"If your birthday was in July, would you want fireworks on your birthday cake? If your birthday was on Halloween, would you want ghosts? No, you'd want birthday stuff," she said.

Though Payne said she's always grateful when someone takes the time to acknowledge her birthday, "you just don't want your own special day to disappear into Christmas."

It's not just about the cake, it's wrapping paper and greeting cards, too.

Payne said she's received countless cards on her birthday illustrated with wreaths hanging from front doors. "Show me a front door that's got balloons on it," she joked.

But over the years Payne found her own way to cope with the Christmassy cake decorations, gift-wrap and greeting cards:

"I get them back with wrapping paper," she said. "I'll wrap their birthday presents in the most horrible paper I can find. It's kind of a joke with everybody that knows me."

While there is no shortage of December babies, most babies are born during the summer months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2006 statistics.

Christmas babies aren't the only ones who feel slighted on their special day. It's not called the holiday season for nothing.

Etiquette consultant Leah Ingram, whose birthday is on December 15, said, when it comes to December birthdays, "all bets are off."

In addition to holiday-specific greeting cards and wrapping paper, Ingram said the "combined gift" is another downer for December babies.

"I'm a firm believer in recognizing each event with a separate gift," she said. "But that doesn't mean you have to spend double. If you only have $50 budgeted for gifts for that person, spend $25 for the birthday and $25 for Christmas."

She added: "The people whose birthdays come before that big gift-giving time in December are the ones who get the short end of the stick. Once Christmas has come and gone, it's better."

Betty Pace wrote a 2007 children's book, "Donna's Christmas Birthday," for her daughter Donna, whose December 24 birthday was at one point seen as just another part of the Christmas festivities. That is, until Donna's sixth birthday, when she first noticed that her birthday present came from underneath the tree.

"She didn't want to have her birthday present wrapped in Christmas wrappings. ... Or hear people singing Christmas carols instead of "Happy Birthday," Pace said. "That's what I had been doing. I didn't realize it was a big deal for her."

For Pace, the best solution turned out to be hosting birthday parties for her daughter in places devoid of Christmas paraphernalia -- with special birthday decorations and cake. But other families have found that simply avoiding the Christmas tree isn't enough.

"People go in one of two directions," said Carrie McBride, the managing editor at "You can try to make the two events separate ... by not having any holiday decor at your birthday party and no holiday food, or by celebrating a half birthday to spread out the gift giving."

And while, for Payne, the idea of creating a new birth date is tempting, she says she'll stick with December 25. But don't think she's going to stop wrapping her friends' presents in Mother's Day and Valentine's Day-themed gift-wrap any time soon.

"That's how I get my revenge."