From an early age, I started noticing the strangest thing: A ton of my friends had birthdays within just a day or two of my own. That pattern has persisted over the years to the point of being almost eerie. Coincidence, you say? Shut up.
No, really, though: It turns out that my day of birth—September 10th—is just one day after the most common birthday of them all. In fact, out of the 15 most common birthdays, only three are not in September. Connect the dots, and it starts to look like an awful lot of mischievous holiday revelers are putting the X back in Xmastime.
Oh, BTW, care to guess what the least common birthday is? Not counting leap day, which only comes every four years, the answer is … rum-pum-pum-pum, please … none other than December 25th. The second least common is New Year’s Day. (Independence Day and Halloween are also among the least popular birthdays, so apparently, even the stork takes time out for holidays.)
But back to boning: There’s hard data to support Ben Harper’s observation that winter is for lovers. This study points to a spike in conception rates at year’s end, and this one traces the Northern Hemisphere’s peak birthrates (yes, in September) back to some sensual stocking stuffing that goes on during the Winter Solstice/Xmas week. Interest in sex is at its annual height on that week, as revealed by the, um, Googling habits of people in Northern countries where Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. (We’ll circle back to that study later.)
Okay, so what is it about the winter holidays that seems to be lighting up those bulbs and making bells on bobtails ring? Dammit, we want answers, and we won’t leave until we … uh … get some.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Let’s start with the obvious: Figuratively speaking, the winter holiday season is a time when we huddle together for warmth at the coldest, darkest time of the year. Naturally, some people take that to the logical extreme … and let’s be honest, there’s nothing quite like a cozy fireside super-snuggle to melt the frost right off your toes.
Of course, the warmth of sex is psychological as well as physical. Seasonal Affective Disorder is at its peak in the month of December, and this has been linked to the low levels of serotonin that go with decreased sunlight. Sex is a tried-and-true method of raising serotonin and other chemicals that make spirits bright, thus turning “Bah! Humbug!” into “It's the most wonderful time of the year!”
Besides, we bundle up when it’s cold. According to this study, that inspires men to be more excited by women’s bodies. The researchers chalked this up to what’s known as the “contrast effect”: As they worded it, “More frequent exposure to women's bodies in warmer seasons might increase men's attractiveness criteria for women's body shape and breasts.”
To Drive the Cold Winter Away
Seasonal fluctuation in hormone levels might also inspire some jolly-making of the naughty-and-nice kind (or is that nice and naughty?). Testosterone production reaches its height near the end of the year, and male test subjects have exhibited their highest levels of free testosterone (that’s testosterone that’s not attached to proteins) in December. A separate study found that January was the peak month for testosterone in men and for estradiol in women. In other words, there’s a strong chance that at the year’s end, you’ll be entering, coming out of or smack-dab in the middle of a horny-making hormonal blizzard.
Additionally, the colder weather, as well as the abundance of food that’s available at holiday time, might increase ovulation. Along with igniting urges to put an Xmas bun in the oven, this cues the female body to dispatch fertility signals that stoke the fires of potential partners.
O, Come, All Ye Faithful!
These researchers maintain that cultural cues, not seasonal atmospheric conditions, might be what’s driving so many celebrants to put a Yule log in the fireplace, as it were. In comparing data surrounding holidays of various cultures and times of year, they found a universal correlation between increased interest in sex and “specific mood states—typically happier, calmer, and neither in-control nor controlled.”
The sentimentality of the winter holiday season lends itself perfectly to the arousal of those mood states, what with so many gatherings, greeting cards, movies, ads, etc. stirring up feelings of closeness and connection. This factor, which sexual health specialist Leah Millheiser, M.D. has referred to as the “Hallmark phenomenon,” may help explain the popularity of not only winter holiday sex, but also of December proposals and engagements.
On, Cupid! On, Vixen!
Millheiser has also pointed out that “getting out of your element increases sexual activity in couples.” Thus, seasonal travel might be prompting people to ride the sex sleigh.
And, lest it be forgot, people have more time on their hands and fewer concerns in late December. As psychologist/author/professor Laurie Mintz, Ph.D. has noted, “People are hornier on vacation because you've taken away the stress of the daily grind.”
The opposite may also be true, though: The nerves and neuroses that go with all the winter travel, holiday preparations and obligatory gatherings just might lead you to partake of some stress-relieving reindeer games.
Gathering Winter Fuel
Stress, as we all know, is one of the motivating forces behind the copious alcohol consumption that goes on during the winter holidays… but then, so is the evergreen impulse to get good and sloshed.
Whatever people’s reasons for imbibing might be, it’s no secret that when the 80-proof is in the pudding, inhibition levels are inversely proportional to alcohol percentages. Naturally, when celebrants are filled with the holiday spirit(s), nogging can lead to snogging.
As a friend of mine—another September kid—once said, “Two seconds to the left or the right and any of us could have ended up as a Xeroxed copy of someone’s ass rather than a human infant.” Truly, it warms the cockles of my heart that I ended up as the latter. It’s a wonderful life, indeed!
Damon Orion is a writer, musician, artist, and teacher based in Santa Cruz, CA. He has written for Revolver, Guitar World, Spirituality & Health, Classic Rock, High Times and other publications. Read more of his work at damonorion.com.
Read More: 5 Ways to Slow Down During the Holidays