Christmas was two days ago, and many of you are still prostrate on the couch, stunned by both the festal chaos and the sudden silence that follows it.

Christmas was two days ago, and many of you are still prostrate on the couch, stunned by both the festal chaos and the sudden silence that follows it.

Should you open your eyes even part of the way, you're sure to see some vestige of the recently departed holiday: boxes stacked haphazardly under the tree, a red stick-on bow that somebody attached to a pole lamp and forgot, the ski pants that you have to return because they don't fit and anyway, you don't ski.

You can't do anything just yet, though, because right now you're incapable of so much as lifting your arm to brush the hair out of your eyes.

Even dust motes in a shaft of sunlight have more energy.

Now consider this fact: Today is my sister's birthday.

Yes, on this day-after-the-day-after, a time of such national lethargy that it should be declared a legal holiday, my sister entered the world. She's paid the price ever since.

No one's in the mood to celebrate a birthday two days after Christmas. No one wants to wrap yet another gift, eat cake and ice cream, play Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Everyone wants to rest, drink black coffee and be left alone.

I thought I had it bad, being born 10 days before Christmas, but that was long ago, when I was a child. Even children who are wildly excited for Christmas to come know that getting Christmas books on your birthday is a cheat. As is receiving birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper - please! You may as well wrap a wedding gift in pink and blue paper with "You're having a baby!" written all over it.

My mother never engaged in that sort of scurrilous behavior. My birthday gifts and my sister's always were wrapped in birthday paper, for all the world as if we were born in July. She did, however, claim that we couldn't have birthday parties because it was too close to Christmas. Of course, I understand now what she was talking about - she was talking about planning and shopping and wrapping and worrying about money, and she simply couldn't take on parties too - but at the time I thought she was just making that up. What does Christmas have to do with it? I thought. You invite people, they bring presents, everybody has refreshments.

Even as a child, though, I understood that my sister's birthday was bad news. I had to work hard to feel so much as a twinge of jealousy when she had presents to open and I didn't. Christmas had worn me out. Also, of course, I'd recently had a birthday myself. By Dec. 27, I was as close as a child ever comes to being completely indifferent to gifts.

My sister saw it differently, I daresay. From her perspective, her birthday was a bonus day, a Christmas point two. If she didn't receive this or that on Dec. 25, it might be wrapped in birthday paper, still hidden away.

Others, however, had to dig deep to demonstrate the appropriate enthusiasm. Really, the only people born on that day who can hope to feel truly celebrated are those who don't celebrate Christmas.

Fortunately for my sister, she became one of those people several decades ago when she converted to Judaism. She didn't convert for her birthday's sake, of course; she converted because she fell in love with an Israeli scientist. Still, it was a nice side effect of the process, to end up with a birthday that no longer was celebrated in the wake of the main event.

Meanwhile, my birthday is still 10 days before Christmas, when everyone is feeling either panicky and desperate or euphorically Christmassy. Really, what were my parents thinking?

Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer. E-mail her at mbartlett@thisweeknews.com.