Forgive Jerome Baker if he might believe that “Happy Birthday To You” is a Christmas song, and that birthday cake is a traditional Christmas treat.

For the Ohio State junior linebacker, it has always been a doubly special day, and it will be again Monday, even if he and the Buckeyes already are in Dallas preparing for Friday night’s Cotton Bowl against Southern California.

“This is my 21st birthday — I’m kind of used to it,” Baker said of the dual celebration. “It is what it is, but I always figured, like, everybody celebrates Christmas, so everybody celebrates my birthday. … I kind of get delight out of it.”

His mother has the same attitude.

“I’ve always thought of it as a blessing,” Theodora Baker said. “I’ve always thought, ‘Wow, to have a child born on Christmas, it was really special.’ ”

She and her husband, Jerome Baker Sr., living in Cleveland, already had two older boys and a daughter before Junior came along on Christmas Day 1996. He originally was expected to be a New Year’s Day baby.

“So when I went into labor, I just thought, ‘Wow,’ and when we went in to the hospital the doctor said ‘It looks like you’re going to have this baby on Christmas,’ ” Theodora said. “I just went ‘What?’ So yes, from the start I just thought it was a special blessing.”

Jerome Sr., who worked for a railroad company, was on assignment in New York when word came that Jerome Jr. was on the way.

“I got back in time to be there,” he said.

That Christmas gift came in jumbo size, just over 11 pounds. Since then, the parents agreed, the birthday has only added to the joy of the season — not that their Christmases were ever ordinary.

“When our kids were really young, we used to go visit a different city for Christmas, like Washington, D.C., leaving on, say, the 23rd, and coming back on the 26th,” Theodora said.

Jerome Jr. saw it as normal.

“When I was a kid, I always loved going out of town,” he said. “I like going to new places and feeling like I’m all alone, but having my family with me. That was a lot of fun. That was probably the best Christmas gift for me.”

As he got older, the Bakers started having the Christmas/birthday celebration at home, complete with a cake, family members and friends from the neighborhood.

“Jerome would get a few extra gifts, not a lot, but we would try to make it a little special for him,” Theodora said.

As he grew to be an elite football player at Cleveland Benedictine, the routine changed again.

“I haven’t really celebrated my birthday without a rush since my junior year in high school,” Baker said.

As high-school senior, the family left on Christmas Day to fly down for practice at the U.S. Army All-America Bowl in San Antonio. The past two years at Ohio State, he had been in a rush to get to the Buckeyes’ bowl game, which meant “I leave that night or that morning, so it kind of stinks sometimes.”

But the early departure this year is something new.

“For me it was a little sad to find out it was going to be that way, and he really didn’t say too much,” Theodora said. “So I’m not sure it will really bother him because I know this Cotton Bowl is a big thing. But I have to admit I was a little, ‘Wow, first time he’s not going to be here for Christmas.’ ”

He won’t be forgotten.

“I’ll probably give him a call around midnight,” his mother said. “It’s a special day.”