Wouldn’t it be great if you never had to work on your birthday?

If schools always closed on your birthday? If the whole world put on funny hats and blew noisemakers to usher in your birthday?

Maybe; maybe not.

New Year’s babies hold a unique place in society. For years, the first babies of the new year were celebrated in their towns or at local hospitals, and sometimes showered with gifts. Even today, most newspapers at least print a small item about the first baby born that day.

As a society, we put a lot of stock in the idea of the New Year. It’s a new start, a new chance to break bad habits, to lose weight, to change our lives.

So imagine being the lucky baby born on a day that is so emotionally charged. Conversely, imagine having to share your special day with a holiday as emotionally charged as New Year’s Day.

To help us all view New Year’s Day in a new way today, here are a few thoughts from some people who were born on it.

Ann Merrill, South Portland

Ann Merrill was the first baby of 1942 born at Maine General Hospital (now Maine Medical Center) in Portland, arriving at 1:41 a.m. Jan. 1. Even though she was early, she was late.

“My mother went in on Christmas, but they sent her home and she came back on New Year’s,” said Merrill, who works at the Portland Museum of Art.

There was a small article in a local newspaper about Merrill’s arrival, referring to her as a “husky 8-pound, 11-ounce girl.” Local merchants came forward to shower her family with goodies.

While Merrill was growing up, her family always had a party and cake for her on New Year’s Day. She usually went to the movies on her birthday, too.

She likes having her birthday on New Year’s Day, because “people are still in a festive mood, looking forward to a new year.”

Plus, whenever she has to give her date of birth for some official reason — renewing her driver’s license, for example — the person working behind the counter always smiles. “People always ask me, ‘Were you really born on New Year’s Day?’ ” Merrill said.

For her birthday this year, Merrill said she probably would visit her daughter in Massachusetts and attend the massive First Night celebration in Boston.

She’ll probably get there before the crowds, which is possibly an after-effect of her being born so early in the year.

“I’m always early,” said Merrill. “That’s funny, but I am.”

Sarah Wolf, Cape Elizabeth

Sarah Wolf was born around 11 a.m. on New Year’s Day, 1969, in her hometown of New Hartford, N.Y.

Growing up, she remembers seeing adults wearing hats around her birthday and realizing they were Happy New Year hats, not birthday hats. Sometimes she celebrated her birthday on Jan. 1; other times, her family would hold her birthday celebration on a different day to give her a day of her own.

Some of her favorite memories are of birthday lunches with her father, who always took her out to eat at a Chinese restaurant. Often they were the only restaurants open on New Year’s Day.

“There’s both good and bad to it. It’s at the end of such a long string of events and holidays. People are exhausted by then, so it’s sort of anti-climactic,” said Wolf, a physical therapist who is currently a stay-at-home mother.

Around her 40th birthday, Wolf decided to embrace being born at the start of a new year by doing new things. She decided to participate in a polar dip, one of those New Year’s Day events in which Mainers jump in the ocean, often for charity.

“I found (the polar plunge) to be so invigorating, and I’ve done it a few times since,” she said.

Instead of having birthday sweets such as cake and ice cream on top of all those holiday treats, she and her son, Ben, started a family tradition of having a bucket of berries for a birthday treat.

Ben was born on Christmas, by the way. So apparently, holiday birthdays run in the family.

Kim Wing, Freeport

Kim Wing was born on a holiday, and has a child who came close. Her daughter Lucy was born on Christmas Eve.

Wing was the second baby born in her hospital, in Providence, R.I., on Jan. 1, 1971, so there wasn’t a lot of fanfare.

“As a kid, I never really loved having my birthday on New Year’s Day,” she said. “We’d be at a bed-and-breakfast skiing, and my parents would feel obliged to have a cake for me. I knew the celebration wasn’t all for me, and I felt a little awkward.

“But in some respects I’ve liked it, because I never had to go to school on my birthday, and you don’t work on New Year’s.”

Because Wing knows firsthand what it’s like to share a birthday with the general public, she tries to make sure her daughter has her own day for her birthday, instead of celebrating on Christmas Eve.

“I really try to separate her birthday. We usually celebrate it earlier in the month,” she said.

Wing, who works at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, said she now likes the fact that her birthday falls on a day when the whole world is looking ahead, looking forward to a brighter future.

“The idea of moving time forward, I do like that part of it,” said Wing. “I never like to be late.”

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