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'90s Family : Competing With Biggest Party of Year

November 16, 1994|PAULA LYNN PARKS

Planning a birthday celebration for your child in the middle of writing holiday greeting cards and wrapping presents takes organization as well as some psychological maneuvering so the child feels acknowledged and valued, experts say.

"You can pull off a December party," said Alison Boteler, a Connecticut-based author of several books on entertaining, including "The Children's Party Handbook" (Barron's, 1986). "It's just harder because you are competing with the biggest party of the year, Christmas Day."

Here are some tips:

* Plan early: Boteler suggests that the planning start before Thanksgiving. After you decide on a theme and location, set a date. "Making the invitations, decorations and (party) favors early will save yourself a lot of the last-minute hassles," she added. Then give people more notice by sending the invitations out earlier than usual.

Roylee Brown of Irvine said that with nine children, two of whom have December birthdays, she has to be organized. "I'm very calm. I couldn't do it if I wasn't. I'm ready for Christmas way in advance."

* Separate the celebrations: "I'd separate the birthday celebration by as many days as I could from the holiday," said psychologist Diane Ross Glazer, who specializes in child therapy.

Others suggest putting the birthday decorations in a different room or corner of the room from the Christmas decorations. If the birthday is very close to Christmas, have the family celebration on that day and the party with friends either early or late. Some experts and parents suggested a theme unrelated to Christmas as the best for a December birthday party.

"It's important to do something to make the distinction between the birthday party and just another Christmas party because you want the child to feel their birthday is a special day," Boteler said.

But Patti Giapapas of Los Angeles always plans a Christmas-themed party for her daughter Anne, who turns 11 on Dec. 23. Making ornaments or seeing a Christmas-release movie has become a tradition in their family.

* Accentuate the positive: If your Christmas child feels blue about getting presents only once a year, say " 'I understand why you're feeling sad, but let's look at it another way,' " Glazer said. "A parent has to point out the wonderful side: It's special being born near a special holiday, the stores are beautiful, people are happy, the stores have more toys to choose from."

Paul Downs of Los Angeles, said his son, Jared, 7, likes his Dec. 16 birthday because it is near his dad's Dec. 11 birthday.

* Save something for January: A child with a December birthday has more than the usual after-the-holidays letdown, experts say. Boteler suggests saving a piece of birthday cake in the freezer and an unopened gift. Then in January, exactly a month later, open the present and enjoy the cake.

"It's something to look forward to," added Boteler.

Anne Giapapas has her classroom celebration with cupcakes in January after returning from vacation.

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