By BILL YEE
I have been often asked if it has been a disadvantage to be born on Christmas Day. Friends ask me if I felt shortchanged because I got one combined birthday and Christmas present. I can say it’s has been a blessing to be a Christmas baby.
I was born on Christmas morning 1952 at Chinese Hospital in San Francisco. I had the distinction of being one of the first babies delivered by the stork that day, which gave me my 15 seconds of fame and a picture in the local newspaper.
My older brother Benny went from news stand to news stand buying up copies of The News Call Bulletin with my picture and the delivery nurse, Patricia O’Rourke, on the front page.
Having my birthday on Christmas Day has always made me feel a little special. After all, what’s so bad about sharing a birthday with the baby Jesus? We had so many family Christmas rituals that minus a budding romance we could have been characters in a Hallmark Christmas movie.
Although not Christian, our parents and friends as part of the assimilation to American culture adopted the Christmas custom of gift-giving and celebrating. In fact, my dad bought special Christmas wrapping paper to wrap the laundry packages as a marketing tool to our customers.
We always had a real Christmas tree. It was a yearly ritual for my brother Benny to go shopping for the tree and to go eat afterwards.
We all decorated the tree. We had a Christmas album that we purchased at the tire dealership across the street from our flat. We played that album over and over again. Imagine hearing Johnny Mathis singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” over and over again.
An aunt would have everyone over for Christmas Eve dinner. All the nieces and nephews would get presents! She would always get us the latest toys. One of her more memorable gifts was a Mattel Detective Snub Nose .38 set that fired caps and shot real plastic bullets.
Her gift drove my parents crazy, as my brother and I shot at each other, filling the hallway with smoke from the caps. (A disclaimer: remember Baby Boomer kids actually played with toy guns!)
After dinner she would pull me aside and hand me a card with $5 in it. That was a lot of money in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Other adults, realizing it was my birthday, would also hand me cash. I made out like a bandit and it was better than getting a gift card today.
Another fond memory was going to downtown San Francisco. Among the stops was seeing the window display at Gump’s and the Christmas tree at the City of Paris. A final stop was the Emporium’s toy department, seeing Santa Claus!
One of my rituals later in life was to wait until after 12:00 to go to sleep since I was about to come out of my mother’s womb years earlier.
I could hardly wait to wake up Christmas morning and go out to the living room to open our presents.
We usually got a game of some sort that we could play after we opened our presents. I remember getting Monopoly one year.
Another year my cousin Gordon from Canada was visiting. He got us a table-top hockey game. It was one of the best presents we ever got. We wore that game out and continued to play long after Christmas.
Christmas night we would have a family dinner prepared by my dad and later my brother. It was usually prime rib. In later years my sister-in-law Merry would bake a cake for me and of course my family would sing “Happy Birthday” to me.
So, what’s bad about getting presents, playing games, and eating great food on your birthday!! As a little kid I felt that all that fuss and celebration was for me. Later as a teen and adult it was neat to have your birthday on one of the best holidays that wasn’t Chinese New Year.
So, here’s to all of us Christmas babies! And, as Santa Claus exclaimed as he drove out of sight, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
Bill Yee is a retired Alhambra High School history teacher. He can be reached at email@example.com. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.