Congress's holiday babies lament Christmas overshadowing birthdays

For many people, this season may be all about Jesus’ birthday, but Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) has something to celebrate, too.

He turns 60. On Dec. 24.

Neugebauer has become used to seeing Christmas and New Year’s drown out his birthday festivities, but this year — much to his surprise — he got his own party.

ADVERTISEMENT
His wife and congressional staff threw him a surprise soiree last Tuesday to catch him off guard. It worked so well that he’s not sure whether there might be more than the usual family dinner on Christmas Eve to celebrate his actual birthday.

“I’m getting kind of leery of what’s coming,” he joked.

Neugebauer has several colleagues who also have birthdays on or during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Most have come to terms with it, but they all said they had to learn to love the “two gifts in one” custom that their family and friends would follow.

“When I was a kid, they’d always give you a Christmas present and say it’s a birthday present, too,” said Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), whose birthday is Jan 1. Still, he called being born on New Year’s Day “neat,” and for his 45th birthday this season he plans on doing something low-key at home with his children.

Neugebauer agreed that most of his family and friends have gotten a break over the years when it came to giving him gifts.

“Everybody got an easy ride, because they bought one present,” he said. But his mom at one point seemed to be more bothered by her son’s overshadowed birthday than he is. One year she decided the family would celebrate his birthday during the summer, Neugebauer said.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), on the other hand, called his Dec. 27 birthday “painful.”

“There are two issues when you’re a child,” explained Fortenberry, who turns 49 this year. “Everybody got you only one present, and in elementary school, you never got any cake.”

Fortenberry seems to be holding on to some of that resentment. When asked if he was doing something special for this year’s birthday, he deadpanned, “I hope not.”

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) turns 65 on Dec. 28. He said his sons are taking him out to dinner in Atlanta to celebrate.

“It’s kind of an anticlimactic event,” he said of his birthday, which falls almost squarely between Christmas and New Year’s.

The sunniest of the bunch was Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.). Bachus, whose birthday is also Dec.28, admitted that, as a child, he “sort of regretted the lack of attention during the holidays.”

“[But] as you get older, you’re just glad people forget about it,” he said. In fact, Bachus himself seems to have forgotten about his birthday this year.

“I think I’m 62 this year,” he said after pausing before answering a question about his age.

Bachus added that in some cases, he would actually receive more presents because his friends and family would feel guilty if they didn’t get him something separate for his birthday.

Bachus said this year’s birthday celebration will be one of the most exciting. He is planning to vacation with his family in Mexico Beach, Fla., and then attend both the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., and the national college football championship at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. (His undergraduate alma mater, Auburn University, is playing in the Outback Bowl, and his law school alma mater, the University of Alabama, is playing in the BCS National Championships at the Rose Bowl.)

Neugebauer, too, saw the silver lining in having a birthday during the most hyped holiday season of the year.

“Everyone’s in the Christmas spirit,” he said.

Photo: Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), whose birthday is on Dec. 28, celebrated his 73rd birthday this year with this cake his staff made for him.