The half and not the whole: How a half-birthday is a thing of joy!

christmas baby half birthday unbirthday

Today the sun is forecast to shine all day.

A day after the summer solstice and midsummer night.

And it is my half birthday or as Alice might call it, my un-birthday.

Let me tell you a story about my half birthday and why I’ve found so much joy in celebrating the half rather than the whole.

I was born three days before Christmas. I arrived home on Christmas day, just three days old, and promptly turned orange with baby jaundice. As if that wasn’t too much drama, the shed next door went on fire, the fire brigade were on strike (good old 70’s) so the Green Goddess had to come and put it out. You can imagine what was in my head as a child when that story was told to me; a Green Goddess?! How wonderful! Little did I realise it was just the name for the army’s fire engine. How disappointing in comparison to the image in my mind.

In the years that followed, I always had the day off school for my birthday, which is never a bad thing. My mum and dad always threw a great birthday party with treasure hunts and games and killer party bags. It was pretty good. Although I had to wait all year for both birthday and Christmas. That was hard. I was actually banned for a few years from looking at the Argos catalogue until the end of November, otherwise I’d get too wound up.

When the end of December rolled around, it was always fabulous (even though I nearly always had some childhood ailment like tonsilitis or chicken pox). However, there was always a little feeling of discomfort. Sometimes getting a joint birthday and Christmas present from someone, when my brother got two. Getting birthday presents wrapped up in Christmas paper was also a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be ungrateful, but actually, deep down, I was starting to realise I’m a bit of a diva about my birthday and Christmas was getting in the way.

No. Wait, that’s not right. I really, really love Christmas. It’s my favourite time of year. I love the food, the gift giving and receiving, the cosiness, everything. Even on hard years, like this year when I couldn’t be with Mum, we’d just lost Dad, and my ex-husband came down with Covid during Christmas dinner (perhaps that’s a blog for another time), even then, I still loved it and I’ve definitely handed down that love to my kids. There’s nothing they love more than putting on pyjamas, slippers and a super soft dressing gown and snuggling together to watch telly.

So my birthday got in the way of Christmas. And Christmas got in the way of my birthday. There was a specific moment on my 27th birthday, when someone in my company pushed my presents aside at 9.30am and said “Right! That’s birthday done with, what are we doing today?”.  That day something inside me snapped.

I couldn’t move Christmas, so I was going to move my birthday.

“You can’t do that!” several lovely people have said to me over the years. “Just watch me” was my reply.

Now I’m not totally bonkers; I didn’t throw a dart at a wall calendar and pick a date. Nor did I declare, like Humpty in Through The Looking Glass that an un-birthday is any day of the year that isn’t your birthday. No. I went for my half birthday instead. I guess I could accuse my mum of starting all this. She realised that I never asked for summer things for my birthday, so every year, on my un-birthday, I’d get one summery present – something I’d enjoy playing in the garden with. Sometimes it was a big pressie, like a new bike or that amazing yellow trampoline (pretty basic in today's standards but back then it was incredible), other years it was something that I’d like for our summer holiday: my first Walkman which made the interminable drive down to Devon all the more bearable, with Five Star and Bucks Fizz on repeat.

The un-birthday has always been a thing in my life. Now, I was just making it more of a thing.

The transition was tricky. Firstly, I ignored my 28th birthday. That was hard. I asked my nearest and dearest to ignore it too. Some were fine about it. Some raised an eyebrow or two and my mum was really quite miffed. Understandably. She gave birth to me in the early hours of the 22nd of December. It was an important date for her too, so we rather messily and disjointedly came to some sort of pact over time, where she was allowed a pass and I would happily spend a moment on the 22nd December celebrating my birth with her but everyone else just needed to get with the programme by ignoring it completely.

So my 28th birthday came and went with a card from mum and little else. Although I missed having a celebration (because I can celebrate everything from the opening of a jar of marmite to a vaguely positive email from someone), it felt wonderful to be fully focused on all things Christmassy.

Then the 22nd of June rolled around and I could celebrate being 28.5 in glorious sunshine. I had a paddling pool. The World Cup was on. We had a barbeque. It was fabulous!

And so it has continued. My 40.5 party in 2018 was wonderful. An evening of brilliant friends, in my newly renovated home, with great food, mountains of cake and washed down with lots of booze. The patio doors were wide open, everyone was full of joy with the (Scottish) schools about to break up and holidays about to begin. SO GOOD!

Until the 40.5, there was always a little nagging doubt when the 22nd of June rolled around. I’d feel a moment of awkwardness for being such a diva. For doing something that you’re not supposed to do. “No one can move their birthday!” my friend Gav once said. “I’m not” I protested, “I’m just celebrating the half not the whole”. But some years I needed to give myself a little bit of a pep talk to convince myself of my words too.

But now? Now I’m overjoyed. A day for me in the middle of an always busy month of June. A day that is usually sunny. Everything looks better in the sunshine, after all.

And when Christmas comes around, I feel even more joyful. I can focus purely on the wonder of all things Christmas without a birthday getting in the way.

I’m telling you all this because, a. I’d want to know why someone would have done something so apparently diva-ish as move their birthday and b. to sow a little seed in your head that some rules, that aren’t working for you, can actually be broken without the world caving in. What would you do if you felt you could get away with it? What part of everyday life over the course of a year isn’t working so well and could do with shaking up a bit?

Anyway, I’ll leave you now and carry on celebrating being in the world for 43 and a half years. It’s my day today. Cheers!

June 2021