Bob Ebbe loves having his birthday on New Year’s Day. As a boy, it felt extra-special. As a grown-up, it adds an extra kick to his at-home celebrations on New Year’s Eve, when he makes a point to stay up till 5:30 a.m.
That’s the hour Ebbe was born in Madison, Wis., in 1970. His Jan. 1 arrival made him Madison’s first baby of the decade, an occasion celebrated on the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal.
Nearly five years later, Bob Ebbe got a little brother for Christmas. Chris Ebbe was born Dec. 25, 1974.
Suddenly, Christmas in the Ebbe household got a little more complicated.
For those who know firsthand, holiday birthdays evoke a strong response. Some people love turning a festive day into an even more festive one. Others hate having to share their birthday with a holiday that, year after year, generally takes top billing.
Mavis Ebbe, the boys’ mom, started making two special meals, a tradition that continues. At noon, the family has a traditional Christmas feast. For dinner, it’s a birthday menu, complete with a cake — never a holiday pie — and presents wrapped in birthday paper.
Even with the double celebration, “I think they miss not having their birthday say in July like the other kids,” Mavis Ebbe said of her family’s holiday birthdays. “But that’s just the way it is.”
Retired Janesville, Wis., pediatrician Katsumi Neeno was born on Oct. 31. This fall, when he turned 88, he had a chance to reflect on nearly nine decades of Halloween birthdays.
“I have five kids, and they didn’t want to stay home to celebrate Daddy’s birthday because they wanted to go trick-or-treating,” he said.
“We lived about three blocks away from the grammar school, so there was someone knocking on the door every five minutes,” he said. “My wife would say, ‘You chose the worst day of the year to be born. You should have been born on Christmas — it would have been so much more peaceful.’ ”
Maybe a little too peaceful. Heather Kail did not have much of a 21st birthday party, she said, because all her friends were home observing Christmas.
Kail was born on Christmas Day 1986. After her delivery at Madison General Hospital, “the nurses cleaned me up and brought me to my mom in a Christmas stocking,” she said. “So I was a little Christmas present.”
Her mom joked that she missed her Christmas dinner that year.
“It’s always been special to my family that I’m the Christmas baby and that we celebrate my birthday when we all get together,” said Kail, who lives in Deerfield, Wis. All the same, “as a kid, planning a birthday party was impossible. Even planning one as an adult [gets] way overly complicated.”
Businesses are closed “so I can’t say, ‘I’ll go here for lunch on my birthday’ ” or get the birthday dinner special at a restaurant, said Kail. “It’s never just your day.”
On the upside, getting twice the gifts as a child on Dec. 25 was “awesome,” she said.
When Madison’s Emilie Webb was expecting twins, she predicted they might have a Valentine’s Day birthday. But they arrived two months early, on Dec. 31, 2010.
“The first thing the doctor said was, ‘Well, you’re going to have a great tax deduction,’ ” Webb said. “That’s one way to look at it, I guess.”
This year, twins Sophie and Tessa will turn 3. And their parents actually love the idea of a New Year’s Eve birthday.
“We think it will be fun as they get older,” Webb said. “They can have all sorts of slumber parties. They’ll always be off for their birthday; they’ll never have to go to school. If I had to pick a holiday, this one’s not too bad.”