PV resident’s ‘Birthday Party for Jesus’ reminds all of reason for the season


Each year on Dec. 25, Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but while Christmas is beloved by many, some feel that the true reason behind the holiday often gets lost among the traditions that have sprung up around it. For the past 13 years, Ponte Vedra resident Ginamarie Anthony has made it her goal to remind herself and others of the true meaning of Christ’s birthday by celebrating it the same way she celebrates every other birthday—with a birthday party.

“It’s been so much fun,” Anthony said. “We’ve had bouncy houses, a cotton candy machine, balloons and it’s all about the birth of Jesus. No Santa Claus.”

Held this year from Dec. 16 to Dec. 23, Anthony’s “Birthday Party for Jesus” has become a Christmas tradition of its own. Each year, she invites locals to stop by her home to celebrate and drop off gifts, which she then donates to charities and families in need.

“The stipulation is that the children bring an unwrapped gift that they would like to receive themselves at their age and place it at the feet of Jesus in the manger,” she explained. “They see what it’s like to give, and you can see them receiving the message of it all.”

While the original birthday parties were more like children’s birthday parties, as Anthony’s kids have grown up, the parties have evolved into cocktail receptions where she thanks donors.

“I have five children and two beautiful grandchildren, and it has changed the way that we view Christmas,” she said. “And I’m honored that people still give – that they’re still doing it 13 years later.”

This year, when it came time to distribute the gifts, Anthony had one particular family on her mind – that of recently deceased 13-year-old Paris Byrd.

Byrd, who was a student at Murray Middle School in St. Augustine, died Dec. 5 of an enlarged heart after becoming ill during basketball try-outs in the school’s gym. Anthony, having heard the story on the news, decided to surprise Byrd’s family Christmas morning with presents that had been donated to her cause.

“Meeting (Byrd’s mother) was amazing,” Anthony said. “She’s a very strong lady, and her other children were just so grateful.”

In addition to the Byrd family, Anthony said she was able to donate about $500 worth of presents and gift cards to the Alpha-Omega Miracle Home, a shelter in St. Augustine that provides housing and support for single mothers, their children and senior women.

“You know people have a hard time, but where we are you don’t expect it,” Anthony said. “But it’s out there right in front of us, so how do you not do something?”

For Anthony, the Christmas message she hopes to convey each year isn’t rooted in gifts or traditions, but simply in showing kindness and understanding to everyone.

“There’s always someone looking to do some good, and we need help right here in our own town, in our own state, in our own country,” she said. “Just be kind, be open and be there for someone. You never know when you might need it in return.”