- BC Games
COVER STORY: North Shore Christmas babies
On a chilly Christmas Day 74 years ago, a doctor travelled by horse and buggy to a village outside Mont-Joli, Quebec to deliver a baby boy.
He wrapped tiny William Stanley up tightly and placed him under the tree for his family to admire.
A Christmas baby was born.
“My brothers must have thought I came from Santa,” laughs William “Bill” Stanley, now a long-time West Vancouver resident.
Growing up his mother put extra effort into making sure his birthday was celebrated amidst the cheer of Christmastime.
For young Bill, she handed out plum pudding decorated with holly and a big candle in the middle as everyone sang Happy Birthday.
Most of the time, Stanley says his family made sure to give him two gifts — one for his birthday and the other for the holidays.
After a few years, however, his mother wanted her son to have his own special day, one not overpowered by St. Nicholas and presents under the tree.
So the family celebrated his birthday on the 24th of May, the day of Queen Victoria’s spring birth.
“But this only lasted a few years,” Stanley tells The Outlook. “Then I was back to having my birthday on Christmas Day.”
Now a senior layman local officer with the Salvation Army in North Van, he still celebrates his birthday on Christmas Day. For the last 20 years, he has opened his birthday presents with his family after eating dinner and dessert.
“Oh, how awful it must be to be born on Christmas Day!” are the words of pity Stanley is used to hearing when someone discovers his birthday lands on the most prominent holiday of the year.
But Stanley is much more cheery.
“No,” he says resolutely, “I wouldn’t change my birthday even if I could.”
As carollers gather to sing Silent Night on Christmas Day, Andrew Lukonin made his family’s evening anything but.
He was born in Moscow, Russia 20 minutes after noon on the most festive day of the year in 1989.
“No one is ever free on Christmas and nothing is open,” says Lukonin, who now lives in North Van, of his overshadowed birthday plans.
“Who remembers my birthday? The good friends do.”
And, of course, his family.
But Lukonin isn’t resentful. Like Stanley, he wouldn’t change the date even if he could.
A mellow guy who works as a sous-chef, he isn’t an attention seeker anyway.
He’s comforted by a list of famous people sharing his “birthday burden,” including celebrities, entrepreneurs and scientists.
Science genius Sir Isaac Newton was born on December 25, 1642 in Lincolnshire, England; Actor Humphrey Bogart in 1899 in New York, Margaritaville’s Jimmy Buffett in 1946 in Mississippi; and Conrad Hilton, the patriarch of the Hilton clan, in 1887 in New Mexico. And Christmas Day, of course, celebrates the birth of Jesus around 2,000 years ago.
Like many of these prominent people, Lukonin’s family gathers every Christmas to celebrate two important events.
“We sing Happy Birthday and my mom makes a honey cake — that’s the only thing I request. Then we go back to Christmassy stuff afterwards,” he says.
Rather than friends and family forgetting his birthday, Lukonin usually benefits with one larger present.
“This year I’m shooting for a snowboard but I’m not expecting anything,” he says with a grin. “I’m not much for presents.”
It’s not only Christmas Day babies who are overshadowed with all the tinseled fuss.
In the hustle of the holidays, Outlook’s creative services manager, Doug Aylsworth, is used to coworkers forgetting about his birthday on December 28th.
“They were going to give me my birthday card in January but they lost it. I didn’t get it until after my birthday the next year and only three people signed it,” he recalls.
It’s tough having a birthday that lands in the middle of Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
“Everyone is so busy then,” laughs Aylsworth, who was born at Lions Gate Hospital.
Friends sometimes say “I gave you a Christmas present and this is part of it” when handing over a ill-timed birthday gift.
But, as with the others born on Christmas Day, he wouldn’t change the date.
“I’m used to it. It’s always been that way.”