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10 Clever Ways People Are Celebrating Birthdays Under Quarantine

While COVID-19 may have limited people's abilities to actively go out and celebrate their birthdays, that doesn't mean creative celebrations can't happen indoors.

Woman celebrating birthday with video conferenceagrobacter/Getty Images

Happy Birthday to me!

As social distancing becomes the reality for millions of Americans, the notion of celebrating birthdays with lockdown restrictions leads to sparks of creativity. A quarantine birthday doesn’t have to be a lonely affair, even if you live alone. In fact, one woman says her quarantine birthday was her best ever!

quarantine birthdayCourtesy Jill Schmidt

A day filled with continuous gifts and well wishes

Jill Martin, a lifestyle contributor to the TODAY Show, has been sheltering-in-place on Long Island for several weeks with her parents and extended family. She thought her birthday on April 14 would just be a regular day in quarantine. But when she woke up, she discovered a friend had dropped off a birthday basket with fun gifts including a roll of toilet paper, wipes, a lollipop, paper towels, and gloves. “It was totally a sign of the times,” she laughs.

Another surprise was that the local Carvel store, where Martin was a regular pre-sheltering in place, delivered a “Fudgy the Whale” cake right to her door. Then, a number of her friends drove by her house with flowers, gifts, and homemade cards throughout the day. To top off the quarantine celebrations, the Third Hour of her TODAY Show family wished her, “Happy Birthday” on air. “The day was strange (because of the quarantine), but everyone made me feel very special,” she says. Family and friends, after all, are one of the 23 wonderful things that will never be canceled.

quarantine birthdayCourtesy Christina Martinez

A five-year old’s dream come true

Christina Martinez, who lives outside Chicago, wanted to come up with a creative solution to celebrate her son’s fifth birthday on May 6. “His birthday is the last one in our family (in the calendar year),” she explains, “So everyone has been counting down to this moment.” Since the family of five was in quarantine, he couldn’t get out to celebrate with his friends so she decided to bring the party to him.

Martinez had heard their local fire station was serenading people with parades, so she reached out to them for an early birthday surprise on May 3. “They said they had five fire trucks available and were really busy but wanted to surprise Orlando with a parade,” she said. “He’s a little boy and fire trucks are big and loud, and he’s always super excited every time they pass by the house.”

But she wanted it to be a bigger gathering than just a fire truck. She also called Urban Air Adventure Park, a trampoline company that they love and that she knew was doing drive-by surprises, to come by the house for the parade, as well as close family and friends who live in the area. In the end, a group of 15 cars, fire engine trucks, and the owners of the local trampoline company showed up to give little Orlando a parade for his birthday. He also ended up on the local ABC Channel 7 news!

luau birthdayCourtesy Nicole Beckley

A virtual luau

The notion of visiting Hawaii during a lockdown sounded dreamy! Nicole Beckley, who lives alone, chose the theme of a virtual luau for her birthday celebration on April 14. “I’m a big fan of tiki bars and beaches, and since we can’t visit either at the moment, it seemed like a good idea to try to create our own version,” she says. She purchased a few floral leis and drink holders from Oriental Trading that she mailed to her friends before the big day. For entertainment during the video chat, Beckley created two versions of her own trivia game (one for high school friends and one for college pals), so her friends could compete to see who knows her best.

Beckley scheduled two separate video chats so that everybody in each chat would know each other. For her friends from high school who all grew up in El Paso, Texas, the first round of trivia had questions about the city. “I spent time looking up facts about the city, and made those into the questions,” she said. The second round included questions about the birthday girl.

To top it all off, she asked a friend to play some songs on the ukulele, and they all sang “Happy Birthday” virtually!

If you’re thinking of skipping a cake for your birthday, try one of these adorable birthday cake alternatives.

quarantine birthdayCourtesy Bracha Goetz

A 68th “Zoom” trivia birthday with friends from all over the world

For her husband, Aryeh’s 68th birthday, Bracha Goetz, a children’s book author who lives in Baltimore, coordinated a surprise party on April 20 using the Zoom app, with friends from all around the world. She planned everything over e-mail, taking all the various time zones into consideration. “The family furthest away live in Israel, and they are seven hours ahead of us,” she says, adding that everyone was asked to wear party hats. They also sang, “Happy Birthday” and “blew out” candles on a poster of a birthday cake (by folding the candles).

Then, each family member told one thing they knew about the birthday boy, a former city planner, which was the really special part of the celebration. Comments included that Aryeh was a devoted spouse, valued their heritage, motivated children to learn, and his positive general attitude about the current situation to happily use the time to fix things around the house, and do gardening, and yoga. Find out how one woman is baking her way through quarantine.

birthday drive by paradeCourtesy Meg Reggie

A caravan drive-by party

Meg Reggie has a large blended family of eight kids, who are now grown and out of the house. She decided to throw a surprise 61st birthday drive-by party for her husband, Rick Butgereit, on April 18. “He’s a fun-loving party guy, and more of a buddy to my kids,” she explains. On Rick’s birthday, the kids drove to the child’s house closest to hers and lined up for the drive-by.

She set up a table and two chairs in her driveway, complete with wine and music, and asked her husband to sit there at 6 p.m. “The kids rolled by around 6:15 p.m.,” she says and neighbors also started singing, “Happy Birthday.” Some cars had birthday balloons and some had banners and signs.

One of the family members made a killer dish of greens and chorizo that she dropped off for the birthday. Then following the drive-by, they virtually played a trivia contest once they reached home. “Seventeen people plus significant others joined the virtual trivia, from Atlanta and D.C.,” she adds. Find out why we celebrate birthdays with cake.

 

Rachel Kasab birthdayCourtesy Rachel Kasab

A stylish kosher happy hour

For her fiance’s birthday on April 15, which coincided with Passover, Rachel Kasab organized a Zoom happy hour with his friends and family. She e-mailed all his friends and family two days before and also copied him on the e-mail so he would be aware his birthday was being celebrated and not forgotten. Everyone used fun backgrounds during the call, adding to the festive mood.

Kasab had wanted to surprise her fiance, Ben, with dinner. But only one of them was able to shop because of social distancing guidelines. She had to request the specific items she wanted to make him a royal dinner to go with the happy hour, such as asparagus, filet mignon, garlic, potatoes. She baked a kosher chocolate cake with store-bought vanilla icing and candles. “I didn’t have enough cane sugar in my pantry because of limited groceries so I used a combination of sugars I had, plus brewed coffee,” she says.

To top it off, his mother and sister had cocktails delivered through Sourced Craft Cocktails, a company that is also supporting COVID-19 funds. “It was a fun one to remember,” she said, adding that her fiance really loved it.

first birthday quarantineCourtesy Kathryn Janicek

Putting traditional elements into a baby’s first birthday

Kathryn Janicek, a three-time Emmy-award winning producer, tried to create a special first birthday for her daughter, Zofie on April 9. “Chicago is completely shut down. The grandparents are locked down in Florida, the aunts and uncles and godparents were also in their homes far away,” she says.

But not to be deterred, Janicek encouraged her relatives to make their own cake and drinks, decorate their kitchen in festive ways, and show up on Zoom to celebrate with Zofie on her first birthday. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles from Fort Myers, Venice Beach, and Clearwater Beach in Florida; as well as relatives in Palatine, Illinois, and Syracuse, New York attend the virtual gathering.

Janicek made cupcakes; and others thought to bake Devil’s Food bundt cakes with homemade vanilla frosting, “the traditional first birthday cake,” says Janicek. “Zofie loved seeing her family,” she says. “We tested Zoom three days early to make sure the grandparents knew how to use it and that Zofie wouldn’t be too freaked out the night of her birthday.” The end result? The birthday girl loved it, and almost ate an entire cupcake!

Learn about royal birthday traditions you didn’t know existed.

six birthdays quarantineCourtesy Heather Behrends

Celebrating six birthdays in six days

Heather Behrends, who runs her own site Made in a Pinch, has a family whose birthdays all fall in mid-April, from April 13 to 19. “Growing up, we always had four birthdays in that week, but then I got married to someone who has a birthday in the same week and our oldest child was born on my dad and uncle’s birthday,” the mom of three boys says.

In the past, the relatives have exchanged flowers, but since the families couldn’t meet up this year, everyone chose some sort of fun food delivery to support locally-impacted businesses. The families live outside Denver and ordered desserts from local favorites, including The Dessert Stand, OMG Doughnuts, and Sara’s Heavenly Bites. “My kids did chalk messages and pictures for my sister in our driveway,” Behrends adds. Don’t miss these 21 moving photos that define kindness during the coronavirus.

hotel birthday family quarantineCourtesy Lauren Rosen

Maison L’Hotel spa day

New Jersey-based Lauren Rosen was scheduled to celebrate her 50th birthday on April 21 in Morocco with her family. “I think my family wanted to go to the extreme to make the day extraordinary,” she says. To make up for the missed vacation, Rosen’s family turned her entire house into a hotel experience called L’Hotel Maison for the day. “The night before my birthday I entered my bedroom to find my bed all made up hotel-style with a little chocolate on the pillow, my itinerary for the day, and my key card for my room,” she says.

In the morning, her kids, pretending to be the executive chef and spa director, delivered her breakfast in bed on a tray complete with lots of inn-like details. After she headed to the spa, created in the attic, which required the key-card for access. She opened the door to a yoga retreat set up with candles and pillows, meditations, and spa-themed music. From there, she had her choice of spa treatments, complete with a robe.

After that, she had birthday messages, Zoom calls, a birthday parade, and a steak dinner, followed by an online game of mahjong with her regular group. In the middle of mahjong, her family gave the last surprise: a small coconut birthday cake. But her husband had taken this surprise to the next level by delivering the exact same cake with the same message to her three mahjong friends so that they could all enjoy together. Find out 31 things you need for a relaxing spa day at home.

birthday zoom callCourtesy Jo Young

A Tiger King virtual dance party

On her April 13 birthday, Jo Young, who lives in New York City, had planned on being part of a reunion with her girlfriends from Kansas and Oklahoma. “We haven’t seen each other for 20 years,” she says, adding that they were all truly looking forward to the occasion. Of course, the in-person visit wasn’t able to happen.

Instead, her friends asked Young, who lives alone, to send them a file with some of her favorite music. Her friends asked her to join them on a Zoom meeting on her birthday. “They never told me what was going to happen, just that everyone was going to have a good time,” she says.

When she dialed into the call, she was greeted by close to 50 friends, including some located as far away as Russia and South Africa. The party was Tiger King themed, as the series is located in Oklahoma—Young wore a Tiger King T-shirt and matching leggings that her friends had sent her. The party was supposed to be two hours, but thanks to all the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s-era dance music that Young had provided, it ended up stretching to four hours. “We danced non-stop,” she says.

Next, take a look at our Coronavirus Guide to discover more ways to stay sane, keep your family safe, and make the most of together time.

 

Charu Suri
Charu Suri is an award-winning journalist who writes primarily in the travel beat. She contributes regularly to The New York Times and Architectural Digest. Her stories have won gold in the North American Travel Journalists Association awards, and she is also a jazz pianist and composer who became the first Indian American jazz composer to premier work at Carnegie Hall. Her first album, Lollipops for Breakfast, won a Global Music Award.