Over the last several months, we've all experienced our fair share of missed events. Weddings have been postponed, graduations have been canceled, and in-person performances have been moved online, all due to COVID-19. If you're celebrating a birthday during quarantine, know that it doesn't have to be lonely. It should, however, be safe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (or the CDC), social distancing involves "limiting face-to-face contact with others" and "keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home." Science shows that social distancing does limit the spread of highly contagious diseases, which is why it's the first line of defense against the Coronavirus. A face mask is another reliable tool, as it prevents you from touching your face, covers your nose and mouth (two of your most vulnerable spots), and prevents droplets from your breath from entering your environment. If you do choose to involve non-housemates in your birthday celebration — in-person, anyway — both social distancing and masks are paramount.
A socially distanced birthday isn't just about prepping yourself physically; it's also about prepping yourself mentally. This birthday won't feel like past years. You can't go out to the bar, blow out the candles on a communal cake, or get hugs from all your friends and family members, so it's important to set your expectations beforehand. This birthday will feel different, of course — but it can also be novel and enjoyable if you plan accordingly.
For those searching for inspiration and tips, you've come to the right place. These birthday ideas include social interaction, food, drinking, and games — all the building blocks of a great party — in a way that keeps you (and your loved ones) safe during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Socially Distanced Birthday Party Ideas
This is arguably one of the most popular party ideas right now. If you've heard choruses of honking cars around your neighborhood, that's probably why. During a car parade, your friends form a line and drive by your house in their cars. They honk, play music, attach balloons to their vehicles, and hold up signs. You stand outside to watch and greet them (from a distance, of course). It's a social yet safe celebration because it allows you to see everyone you love without asking them to come into contact with each other.
Thanks to technology, you can still hang out with your friends while you're miles apart. For instance, Zoom is a video conferencing software that lets you host up to 100 people for 40 minutes or less, all without paying a cent. You can get a group of friends together to chat, or you can all dress up and order food to celebrate your birthday as if you were at a restaurant together.
You can also set up a simulated party in a video game, like Animal Crossing. Playing as their adorable character counterparts, people are inviting their real-life friends to their islands where they can all hang out and play the game together.
Porch Happy Hour
Close with your neighbors? Organize a happy hour where you all sit on your respective porches and talk from across the yard. Bring your own wine and set up charcuterie boards — anything that makes it feel like a special occasion.
If you're a huge fan of movie marathons, this one's for you: A group of people can watch the same movie from different locations thanks to a Chrome extension called Netflix Party. As long as all participants are subscribed to Netflix and on a computer, you can choose a show or movie, set up a room, and invite all of your friends. Then you can start and stop the video for everyone simultaneously (which is a godsend for bathroom breaks), plus there's a chat box so you can chat and listen to each other's commentary.
DIY Drive-In Theater
Some towns are organizing impromptu drive-in theaters in parking lots — and if your town is one of them, this could be a great birthday activity.
If those aren't available in your area, however, you might consider creating your own. Invest in a great projector and project a movie onto your garage or the side of your house. Sit with your family members in the driveway or invite your friends to come over and watch from their cars. You can even make popcorn and slather it with butter.
Video Game Night
Co-op games have always been popular, but they're especially in-demand now that most people can't see their friends face-to-face. Organize a gaming night for your birthday and play some of the best online multiplayer games with your friends. For a traditional game night feel, opt for Jackbox or Tabletop Simulator. If you want a little more action (and everyone involved has a Nintendo Switch), Mario Kart and Animal Crossing are awesome options.
Decorate Your Yard
The right decorations get you hyped and set the scene for a celebration. Even if you don't have plans, you can decorate your yard so drivers and pedestrians know it's your birthday. Put signs in the windows and spell out a message with lawn letters. Tie balloons to the mailbox. Go ham with chalk on the driveway — express your creativity and celebrate yourself all at the same time.
If you like to celebrate your birthday with a nice dinner out, here's a safer alternative. Get takeout from your favorite restaurant, but don't just eat it at home in your pajamas. Set up a picnic with your housemates and go all out; get dressed up, bring wine, and play your favorite outdoor games. You can even order dessert from your favorite bakery. Thanks to the old-time picnic feel, you won't even miss the restaurant.
Sometimes video calls just aren't enough. Window meetings offer a safe way for you to see your friends and family members without spreading germs. On a nice day, invite someone to come and hang out with you through the window. Set up a chair for them outside and talk on the phone instead of through the screen. If you want to see multiple people for your birthday, you can even set up a visiting hour schedule — just be sure to sanitize the chair in between visitors and organize carefully so there's only one person at a time.
Here's an idea if you and your friends love to bake: Ask each "contestant" to choose a recipe that fits into a given theme. (Try magical creatures, chocoholics, or holidays.) Everyone can set up a webcam and live-stream their baking project for everyone else. Hold a competition on Zoom and re-create your very own episode of Nailed It, the Netflix original that features novice bakers instead of pros. Choose a winner — though, now that everyone has a delicious treat at home, arguably, everyone's a winner.
Your birthday could be a great opportunity for self-care. Draw a bath complete with bubbles and bath bombs. Pour yourself some wine. Make a DIY facial or do your own gel manicure at home. Read a book in your fluffiest robe. Alternatively, if you have a family member who's willing to play photographer (or a great selfie stick), you can put on a full face of makeup, put on your favorite dress, and do a glam photoshoot for Instagram.
Luckily for nature lovers, the great outdoors isn't canceled. See if you can find a spot nearby that still allows camping and fishing, or go for a hike at a nearby state park. Beaches are also starting to open back up, but if you can't make it to a specific destination, your own backyard can offer vitamin D, fresh air, and a new perspective.
Quick Tips For A Safe Birthday
If you're leaving your home:
- Wear masks and gloves
- Observe the six-feet rule
- Wash your hands often
- Stay in your car/behind your windows
If you're staying home:
- Keep communication virtual whenever possible
- Sanitize everything that people drop off
- Try not to get too down; everyone's in the same boat, and you can still have a great birthday!