Holly's Day in Mid December


Long about 1969, my parents gave me a book called Alphabet of Girls. I still have it--I am truly a book keeper. The book contains poems about the first names of girls, arranged by the alphabet: R, for instance, discusses Roseanna, Rosella, Rosedith, Rosetta and Rose, and the fact that not one of them is rose-like; C is devoted to Carol, Carla, Charlotte, Carrie and Cora, all of whom are indisposed; X describes the plight of a poor girl named Xenobia. H goes like this:

Hilda's birthday comes, we know,
Wrapped in January's snow.

Harriet's birthday comes on wings
Of March's windy wandering.

Hope can celebrate her day
With sun-etched greenery, in May.

For Heather's birthday, all the birds,
In August, sing their summer words.

Hazel's natal day will hold
October's scarlet and its gold.

Holly's day in mid December,
Is the easiest to remember.

My birthday is indeed the very middle day of December--today. I share my birthday with Jane Austen, Ludwig van Beethoven, Arthur C. Clarke, Noel Coward, Philip K. Dick, Margaret Mead, George Santayana, Liv Ullmann and Brett Weston. December 16 is in the sun sign of Sagittarius, sign of the archer--supposedly what he's hunting is the truth. Not only my sun but my moon sign is in Sagittarius; my rising sign is Libra.

There are ways in which my birthday isn't ideal, especially for someone in academia: it usually falls during finals week, and I can't count the number of times I have either given or taken an exam on my birthday, though I NEVER grade anything on my birthday--that's one gift I can give myself. Also lamentable is the fact that my friends and colleagues often take off for the winter break on or before my birthday, which can make it hard to celebrate properly. And then there's the way some people do that lame thing of giving me just one gift for both Christmas and my birthday, because the two events are so close together. I realize this is a bit bitchy, but I have to say: if you really like me, and if you want me to remember YOUR birthday, you'll buy me two presents, OK?

But despite all that, I have always liked my birthday. I like the general festive spirit of the season. I have always liked long cold nights (though long cold nights in Arizona are of a different character than long cold nights in Iowa or Pennsylvania) and I like celebrating my birthday with hot chocolate and a roaring fire. I also like my birthday because its proximity to Christmas is the reason for my name, which I love.

I like names that mean things, quickly and obviously: I've always said that if I ever had a daughter, I would want to name her Grace, because it's a beautiful word with a beautiful meaning. My sisters are Sharon, Katie and Lisa, and I like those names, but you have to look them up in one of those dictionaries of names to find out what they mean. I like that my name is both a noun and a proper noun. I like that my name is iconic. I like that I can point to something and say, "That's what I'm named for." One reason I bought the house I live in now is the fact that there were large, healthy holly bushes on either side of the front door. They seemed like a good sign, and so far, they have been.

My name is really quite pagan: a good old celtic fertility symbol that has subsequently been co-opted by Christianity and is now one of the most recognizable symbols of Christmas. I am glad that my parents decided to name me Holly instead of any of the other Christmas-y names: Carol, or Merry, or Noel. They are lovely names, but they don't fit me, and Holly does.

At the time I got my name, it was extremely uncommon: I could never find trinkets (necklaces, mugs, key chains) with my name printed on them, and it used to bum me out, though I make up for it now by collecting any number of things (salt and pepper shakers, vases, teapots, coffee mugs, serving platters, candy dishes, complete place settings for eight) with sprigs of holly on it. There was only one famous Holly around when I was little: Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's, and in her case Holly was actually short for Holiday, and neither was her real name: her real name was Lula Mae. There aren't many famous Hollys my age: Holly Hunter is one of the few. But the name has become quite popular, and there are plenty of little Hollys out there, which I am ambivalent about: yeah, I'm glad other people like my name well enough to bestow it on their daughters, but I also like not having to share it very often. I was the only person named Holly in my entire school, and that was more than fine with me.

In any event, I'm 42 years old today and I plan on having a lovely day. If you want to wish me Happy Birthday, I'd be thrilled to hear from you.


I am so glad to be the first to wish you the happiest of birthdays on this day in mid-December. Hot cocoa and a roasting fire sound like a divine way to celebrate. I will be there in spirit, hell, we could do it together on the phone. In any case, you are filthy gorgeous and brilliant and I am honored to call you my friend.

Happy Birthday, Darling!

I would like to wish you a Happy Birthday from Belgium, where we have been celebrating your birthday for hours all ready :-) Other cool stuff one might get to do on your birthday because of the time of year could be making home made mince pies for Christmas (which is what I was doing when your birthday arrived), tobogganing or skiing (our snow has not come back yet but there is some just a few hours away - I'm going to see it tomorrow) or especially ice-skating, which I will do this evening in the middle of Place St Katherine in Brussels. It's a truly delightful and enchanting wat to celebrate Holly's Day. So Happy Birthday, Holly!



I just discovered your blog a couple of days ago, and I am quite impressed. I also feel a little as if I've discovered a new compatriot in the land of single-and-proud-of-it (as in never married, with a trove of relationship stories to tell), 40-something (41), long-suffering-life-long-writers-and-lovers-of-lit who are living life on their own terms.

You are an inspiration and -- apparently ;-) -- a cool gal. Again, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

(p.s. -- What, no mention of Holly Hobbie? http://www.maran-ata.net/minihearts/HH.htm)

Hey, Holly, thanks for your P&P note - and happy b-day. I'm also a December baby and get the 1-for-2 gift-deal. But, as you say, the festive atmosphere at this time of year can be infectious. The way I see it - everyone is celebrating our birthdays (they just don't know it -:)


Happy birthday, Holly! Holly is a lovely name.

I share your cantankerousness about the proper way to celebrate December birthdays. Mine was Tuesday (though we all had the stomach flu then, and actually celebrated it yesterday), so I understand about the whole birthday/Christmas proximity thing. When I was a kid, my brother (born in April) used to get a $10 check from a certain member of our family each b-day and another $10 each X-mas. I would get a single $15 check each December marked "B-day/X-Mas." Even back then I could do the math.

So, enjoy your birthday as a day unto itself, however you wish to spend it. I hope it's terrific.

Jana Riess

お誕生日おめでとう! 生日快樂! Appyhay Irthdaybay!
(hope that the non-Roman characters go through...)

42 is a Special Number, because it is the Answer to the Life, the Universe, and Everything. So I expect great things from you this year, like enlightenment or something close--maybe a personal visit from David Bowie.

Speaking of Bowie:
You have awesome, too.

Anyhow, birthdays are special days, and you are a lovely, extraordinary woman, so you deserve specialness today. I hope it involves some degree of chocolate. Happy birthday, my friend!

Happy birthday, Holly!

I stumbled on your blog after reading your entry in the Carnival of Feminists, and I love it. I was raised Mormon in Utah but left when I turned eighteen. As that was nearly a decade ago, my feelings have subsided from rage to warm nostalgia mixed with frustration to form a whole host of complicated emotions. I really enjoy reading your writings about Mormonism because you take a critical look at the religion, yet you still have affection for the Mormon culture. I like that. As a result I'm sure I will be back soon.

A cool gal indeed. Happy Birthday Holly.

Hi Holly,

I hope that today's a good one for you! Sending warm wishes your way :)

A birthday poem for you...[If you were here I would read this aloud to you. But since you're not, you can just close your eyes and imagine it that way]


On one of those birthdays of which I’ve had so many
I was walking home through the park from a party,

pleased with myself for not mentioning the birthday—
why hear congratulations for doing nothing but live?

The birthday was my secret with myself and gave me,
walking under all those trees, such a strong feeling of

satisfaction that everything else fell away: party sounds,
the hostess who stared and as suddenly disappeared

on seeing her husband walk in with a young(er) friend;
another guest examining garment labels in the room

where I went to leave my jacket; one of two waiters
balancing a trayful of foot-high champagne glasses;

a beelike buzz of voices I ought to have enjoyed
but heard as foreign babble, so remote it was from

a birthday, so empty of import nothing would remain.
I got my jacket, waved from the hall, pressed “Down.”

In summer the park, for an hour or so before night,
is at its greenest, a whole implicit proposition

of green leaves, a triumph of leaves enfolding me
that day in a green intimacy so trustworthy I told

them my secret. “It’s my birthday,” I said out loud
before turning away to cross the avenue.

—Dorthea Tanning
The New Yorker, September 2, 2002

Happy Birthday Holly! And thanks! As a father of a daughter named Hope (her January 1st birthday had a bit to do with it--and she was due Christmas Eve) who, at two weeks short of 12 isn't yet thrilled to be the only Hope she knows, I'm going to print out your post about your name and the pros/cons of being born during this season. I'm sure she'll enjoy it--and if not right now at her age, sometime down the line.

Thanks for being such a good friend to Sunstone. We love publishing your reflections and really thrill at the panels you put together! And on a more personal note level, it's been great getting to know you these past four plus years. You're a unique and powerful person, and a crazy good writer. One of my favorite lyrics is from Simon and Garfunkel's "Only Living Boy in New York" that talks about letting one's honesty shine, shine, shine. I can't wait to see what will come shining forth next from you!

Happy, Happy Birthday!
Dan Wotherspoon

You guys rock! Thank you all so, so much for taking the time to stop by and wish me happy birthday. I've had a lovely day, and your good wishes have a lot to do with it.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! Gaa, a day late, I know. My feet are on the ground again and the jet lag is fading quickly. No more excuses. But a bit of information: I'm staying with a two-year-old (as of December 12) named Grace. Another beautiful name, as you noted. So here's wishing you a December 17 that prolongs the good day and a whole year worthy of you.


Greetings from the Ohoopee River swamps. If it wasn't raining--a rainy night in Georgia--I would go outside and do some hooping and hollering as a kind of birthday celebration.

You might think I am a day late in wishing you a happy birthday, and that maybe I didn't remember, or maybe didn't even know that the sixtenth was your birthday. Well that might be a mistake. Actually I am just splitting the difference, because tomorrow is my birthday.

I think it clever that your parents named you Holly. My dad wanted to name me Claus T. Fobia Blount, but my mother objected.

Here is to both of us enjoying birthdays, youthful thoughts, the wisdom of maturity, wishful thinking, and most of all our friendship.


Dear Holly,

I am coming to this awfully late, but at least I'm here! Happy late birthday! I hope, as Jana said, you had lots and lots of chocolate!

Missing you,

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on December 16, 2005 12:16 AM.

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