7 Ways to Make Your Second Pandemic Birthday Less of a Bummer (and Maybe Even… Fun?)

updated Mar 31, 2021
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Woman blowing out the candle on the birthday cake and making video call. Girl celebrating birthday online in quarantine time. Close up birthday cake and laptop.

Happy birthday… or is it? If you’re about to celebrate your second birthday away from loved ones due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, you may not feel quite so excited about your special day. Gone are the big dinners around crowded restaurant tables or all-night dance parties in your living room — but it’s not forever, and it’s important to remember that things will feel normal again thanks to vaccination roll-outs. 

Until then, it’s still best to prioritize safety for yourself and your loved ones, and celebrate your birthday with these responsible (but still fun!) party ideas. Air hug for now, and think of how great it will feel to actually hug when you can. 

Treat yourself. 

If you’ve been eyeing a special pair of shoes, comfy chair, or piece of art, now’s the time to splurge. You’ve had to ring in your birthday during a global pandemic twice, so if you can treat yourself without blowing your budget, consider this your sign to do so. The splurge needn’t be expensive, either: Buy yourself flowers. Get the fancy cake from your local bakery. Have ice cream for breakfast.

Have a “yes day.”

The concept of a “yes day” has become more popular and even spawned a movie. And what better time to try it than your birthday? Anything you want is an automatic “yes,” so if that means sleeping until noon, making waffles for dinner, booking a ticket to your favorite museum, watching an all-day marathon of Real Housewives, or whatever else strikes your fancy — it’s yours. Say yes to your every birthday whim!

Remember when you were a kid and you got to have a Disney Princess or Mario-themed birthday party? You can still do that as an adult, only the theme may change from “The Little Mermaid” to Harry Styles’s “Watermelon Sugar” video, the board game Clue, or your favorite piece of surrealist art. Stick to whatever theme strikes your fancy for the day and dress for the occasion, then plan dinner and an activity to match.

Gather safely.

Human connection is essential, and everyone is majorly burnt out on Zoom calls. You can see your vaccinated and low-risk friends and family on your special day if you do it safely. Keep the group small, gather outside, wear masks, and don’t share food, for starters. If your group has been fully vaccinated and no one lives with someone who is high-risk, gathering recommendations may be a bit different. Whether you’re hanging out in someone’s backyard or gathering at a park, let yourself enjoy the time with people you love. Whatever you do, make sure you follow the CDC’s guidelines for your specific situation. For example, right now groups of vaccinated and not-yet-vaccinated people should only gather indoors if those who are not-yet-vaccinated are from the same household.

Unleash your inner chef or mixologist.

If you prefer to celebrate virtually, gather a handful of friends and family and book a digital class for the night. Airbnb has plenty of options to choose from in their Experiences portal: You can play mixologist and craft fancy cocktails, make sangria with drag queens, solve an escape room, or even learn to tango! Alternatively, reach out to a local chef and see if they’ll host a special class for you and your loved ones via Zoom — more pros than ever are branching out, and keeping things local will support your direct community.

Do some self-reflection. 

Think of how much change you’ve gone through in a year; 2020 was full of ups and downs, and you made it through. Take some time to sit down and think about what you’ve learned and how you’ve grown. Light a candle, pour a glass of wine or your favorite beverage, and make a list of five lessons from the past year, or five hopes for the next one. 

Give yourself grace. 

It’s OK to feel upset about what you’ve lost over the past year. If you don’t feel much like celebrating, don’t feel pressured to plan an activity. It’s your day, and you can and should spend it however you like.