Let’s face it, we have all had a pandemic birthday. Let’s just say, it’s different; but it isn’t all bad. Let us embrace the fact that while the pandemic continues, we can still celebrate, distantly. And for those of us who understand that birthday celebrations can be a stressful occasion due to food allergies, celebrating distantly isn’t so terrible at all. 

I’ve been all about leaning into non-food related activities the past few years. I’m learning how to weave in new non-food traditions for all holidays, including birthdays. The more I embrace this, the more excited I feel as the dates approach. 

Birthdays look different during the pandemic.

The positive side of the internet

There’s a positive side to everything being online lately, and that’s being able to reinvent holidays. I used to be so embarrassed about wearing a mask and wiping down surfaces in public spaces while trying to keep myself safe from any food particles. Now that’s the norm! I wouldn’t have thought it was acceptable to stay inside my living space on my birthday, but now it’s encouraged. I don’t have to deal with as many in-person or airborne food reactions at school, on public transit, in public spaces like parks, in restaurants, work, and more.

As we slide into 2021, I’m trying to embrace birthdays with food allergies in a whole new way, where I get to decide how I want to celebrate and what works best for me. I’m also viewing everything with a new lens of appreciation. Not that I wasn’t thankful before, but this pandemic has me welcoming the small things I may not have noticed before this all began. I am now living more in the present moment. I’m noticing myself feeling the breeze across my face, noticing how comforting a warm drink can be, and I’ve been letting myself take naps alongside my dog (which I never would’ve done before because my schedule was so “go go go”).  

Here’s to celebrating your birthday the way YOU want to!

Below are some non-food birthday traditions that have worked for me in the past. I plan to carry these beyond the years of the pandemic, because I truly enjoy them. I hope you are inspired by these fun, socially distanced, and virtual ways to celebrate your own birthday, or a loved one’s, birthday this year. None involve food. Feel free to tweak them to make them your own.

  1. Go virtual!

    If you have access to the internet, get on Zoom, FaceTime, Messenger or whatever platform you prefer and “hang out” with your closest friends and family! Pick a theme, choose a day and a time, and sing Happy Birthday! I did a version of this recently and we decided to do a make-shift Karaoke party. I sang into my hairbrush “microphone” and pulled up a YouTube video of a favorite song with lyrics, and the rest was history!

  2. Play a game!

    Create a simple scavenger hunt around your home for clues leading to a birthday gift! Other ideas could be: Jenga, Twister, cards, or board games. Games are always a fun way to celebrate at home. There are games online that can be played virtually with a group, like scattergories, and I’ve heard there are even free online Murder Mystery type parties now. Better get your magnifying glass out!

  3. A birthday movie night!

    Get lots of comfy pillows and blankets, maybe even make a fort, and watch a happy movie together. Alternatively, you could watch episodes of your favorite TV shows that feature birthdays to create a theme. There are even ways to download an extension so you can watch with friends, from the comfort of their own homes, while still feeling together.

  4. Utilize the United States Postal Service!

    If you don’t live close to friends and family, mail a thoughtful card to the birthday person! I mean, who doesn’t like getting mail, right? And if it’s your birthday, you could ask friends and family to mail you a heartfelt birthday card this year in lieu of a purchased gift. That way you can read them all on your special day and treasure them for years to come. 

  5. Beep beep!

    Drive by with balloons, noise makers, streamers, signs, music, or whatever you want! Whether you’re the one partaking in the birthday parade, or the one receiving the outdoor surprise, this is an option many people have been utilizing lately and I think it’s so fun. I could see personalized versions of it happening, too. For example, you could also have it be a specific theme that the birthday person enjoys! Or if you live close enough, you could walk over and pull a Say Anything moment where you stand out front and sing Happy Birthday in-person.

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