Thursday, 6 January 2011

Epiphanous celebrations

Photo credit: cornnius
By the time you read this, I'll be another year older. For today is my birthday. When your birthday is the first week of January, it's a challenge to celebrate. The whole world spends all its money over Christmas and New Year and by 2nd - or possibly 3rd some years - are on a real diet, or at the very least, a money diet and the return to work marks a distinct end to the party mood. If friends and family have not budgeted for your birthday present, forget it. You might get something in February. Or March. (I had an ex once that finally bought me a present in April. The following year, I lent him the money for my present. The year after that, we'd broken up). My husband hates having to buy me two presents so close together - just because he lacks ideas, not begrudging the money - but forgets that means he's largely off the hook for the rest of the year.

A birthday at this time of year means that you are at the mercy of the worst that winter can throw at you. My 21st birthday meal was cancelled because the snow followed me up the M1 back to university for the start of term and there was no way that 10 of us could go out further than the end of the road. Last year was the same - school was shut for the first week of term, and the in-laws didn't want to come over to babysit, understandable with all the snow and ice. So, like the mad fools we are, we set off on a family trip to the Trafford Centre where they were still trying to clear the car parks with snowploughs where we had lunch in a nearly empty restaurant and the manager gave us free cake when he found out it was my birthday.  I bought steak from M&S and cooked my own birthday dinner.

Winter illnesses can also get the better of you when your birthday is this time of year. Mum tells the story that she went to get me up on my very first birthday, and found I had chickenpox. Lovely. My 7th birthday party was actually a mumps party (remember those?) and one year as a child, I had the gift of a sickness bug. If it's not me, it's someone else. Husband had only just recovered from a sickness bug when we went out for my birthday a few years back,.

We let the feast of Epiphany pass us by in this country, but there are about 20 countries where they make a big deal out of it and have a public holiday. For some, it is their Christmas, or at least the day when they get their presents. I keep saying I'm going to move to Spain for this very reason. Strangely enough, we went to Spain straight after New Year one time for a holiday with Monkey, to Andalusia, the driest region in mainland Europe. It rained and was cold all day long on my birthday (the only day out of 14 it did so) and we sat in just reading books. We went to the Algarve in 2009, which mostly went to plan although Portugal doesn't celebrate it in quite the same way as Spain does.

Oh yes, an epiphanous birthday is a joy. There are upsides. You rarely struggle to book a table at a favourite restaurant (unless they are closing for the staff Christmas party) although the atmosphere can be a little lacking or get tickets for cinema or theatre. You can take your birthday money and shop in what's left of the sales. As no-one has any money, you don't feel obliged to invite lots of people out for the night. They'll say no! Savings made on rounds.

This year, Missy Woo is beyond excited about my birthday. She's reminded me every day of this week how many days it is until my birthday. I know it's because she thinks I'm going to have a party and so she is going to be sorely disappointed. Although, the morning is going to be filled with two little excited faces wishing me Happy Birthday and helping me open presents. They may well be cold excited faces because the boiler broke yesterday and we have no central heating or hot water until the engineer returns with the part he needs to buy.

The official definition of an epiphany is "the sudden realisation or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something". Well, every Epiphany, I wake up and realise I'm a year older. Scary prospect when you've reached 46. At the same time, I realise I'm probably very lucky in the things I do have, whatever I say about it. I may not get the birthday of my dreams (and I may, on occasion, have sneaked a half birthday in because the weather is better in July!) but my birthday is the only one I've got so I may as well make the best of it.
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