Life in lockdown: How to celebrate a milestone birthday during the pandemic

Katie Wright, PA
·4-min read

As we head towards the one-year anniversary of restrictions being introduced, it has got to the point where almost everyone has celebrated a birthday during lockdown.

While vaccines are being rolled out, it looks like we will have to continue to cancel or scale back party plans in the months to come, which can be extremely disappointing, especially if you are marking a major birthday.

“Many of us feel disheartened to miss out on the standard rituals or celebrations we would previously be used to,” says author and mindset coach Ruth Kudzi. “The psychological impact of missing some of these milestones during the pandemic can lead to feelings of disappointment, sadness, anger, frustration and anxiety.”

But there are steps you can take to lessen the impact – and enjoy your special day. Here, experts offer their advice on how to mark a big birthday during lockdown…

– Take time to process your emotions

Centenary birthday
A cake made for Tom Ferrett, who celebrated his 100th birthday in isolation at the Palmerston Care Home in East Belfast (Abbeyfield and Wesley Housing Association/PA)

Before you start planning any virtual celebrations, it’s important to recognise any negative emotions you might be feeling.

“My biggest piece of advice to everybody is to set aside some time for reflection and allow yourself to feel; acknowledge your emotions and sit with them,” says Kudzi.

“This can take a few days. Every time you feel angry or sad or disappointed or under pressure, allow yourself to just be, give yourself permission – you can even say aloud, ‘It’s OK to feel this’.”

– Host a virtual party

50th birthday banner and balloons
(Party Delights/PA)

“Think of all the money you’ll be saving not hiring out a big venue or sourcing entertainment,” says Sarah Allsop, creative manager at Party Delights, who suggests creating a lively atmosphere by gifting your guests with a party pack.

“Send invitees a package including balloons, bunting, badges, party hats and more. That way, they can create the ultimate Zoom party backdrop from the comfort of their own homes.”

– Start the celebrations early

So you have got your digital shindig in the diary. That does not mean you have to wait until the evening to get in the party mood.

“Start the day as you mean to go on,” says Allsop. “And don’t forget to treat yourself. Whether that be decorating every room in the house, having cake for breakfast or popping the party playlist on as soon as you wake up.”

– Invent your own party games

Competing in Taskmaster-style challenges can liven up a lockdown birthday
Taskmaster host Greg Davies left and creator Alex Horne (right). Competing in Taskmaster-style challenges virtually with friends can liven up a lockdown birthday (Ian West/PA)

“This idea is great for little kids in particular, but there’s no reason why big kids can’t get involved, too,” says Allsop.

“The aim of the game is simple: come up with the most hilariously ridiculous challenges – that are practical, of course – I guarantee you will all be in fits of laughter.”

Inspired by TV show Taskmaster, she suggests challenges such as: “Fastest person to find a wooden spoon, build a castle out of household items, or who can blow the biggest balloon in under a minute.”

– Dress to impress

We have all been living in loungewear 24/7 but now is the time to banish the PJs and throw on the glad rags.

“What better occasion to feel special, or even silly, with a bit of dress up than a birthday?” says Allsop. “That could simply mean ‘glamming’ up for the occasion, or choosing a theme [for the whole day, or just your Zoom party] and dressing up.

“For younger kids, think superheroes and villains. And for those big birthdays that end in ‘0’, don’t be afraid to go all out on the glitz and glamour – roaring 20s anyone?”

– Consider what you can do for others

Coronavirus – Sun Jan 10, 2021
A virtual party is another way to make sure someone celebrating their birthday during lockdown can properly mark the occasion (Peter Byrne/PA)

If you’ve found it tough missing out on the birthday fun during lockdown, why not think about how to brighten someone else’s special day?

“Depending on lockdown rules, if someone close to you is celebrating a milestone birthday, you could you arrange a doorstep treat, a drive-by, [or] a window visit,” says Kudzi.

“You could order a special delivery meal, balloons, letter box pressies, flowers, brownie slabs or cookies, a Zoom quiz, cocktail making masterclass, cheese tasting or wine tasting.”

– Start planning your post-pandemic ‘freedom’ party

“We’ve heard many people say, ‘Once this is all over we will have a massive party’. This is something we are saying in order to cope with the reality [right now] and also project hope and anticipation onto these future events,” says Kudzi.

While you might not be able to put a date in the diary yet, there is no reason you cannot start a Pinterest board with all the destination and decor ideas you have got in mind.

Allsop adds: “While we have some more downtime at home, why not use it as an opportunity to plan a post-pandemic party instead? To make up for all the milestones missed – imagine how amazing it will be.”