7 Ways to Celebrate a Birthday in Quarantine

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Uh-oh: It’s your birthday, and you can’t really leave your apartment.

Never fear! Take a moment to mourn whatever you might have been planning before this global pandemic, and embrace the strangeness of celebrating in self-isolation. The key is to accept that the celebration is unlikely to feel “normal.” Once you do that, it might even seem fun to interact with your friends and family in new and silly ways. (Note: All of the ideas below should be accompanied by copious amounts of cake, or however you define “treats.”)

Here, seven relatively free ways to celebrate your birthday (or someone else’s birthday) in quarantine:

Virtual visiting hours

Remember in the before times, when you would post up at a bar or restaurant or park or even your own home and tell friends to “come by any time after X”? You can still do this over Zoom, or whichever virtual meeting app you’re using to see people’s faces. Just tell them to pop into the URL during the window of time of your choosing, and get ready to say “I’m so glad you could make it!”

An actually fun trivia game

Trivia nights, virtual and IRL, can be excruciating if the chosen subjects aren’t fun or funny for everyone. So make the questions for your online trivia game about the one thing everyone really cares about on your birthday: you (or the person whose birthday you’re trying to celebrate)! Ask everyone to come up with funny, silly questions about your most embarrassing moments, notorious antics, likes, and dislikes, and see you knows you best. You can alternatively pick any subject you like: The Lord of the Rings, best beans. Just make it something actually interesting.

Virtual potluck

If you and your friends and family like cooking, pick a theme or cuisine and ask everyone to make a dish to bring to the “potluck.” Everyone can eat together and describe whatever they’ve made — challenge attendees to come up with puns for the names of their creations, or make them employ an insane ingredient or put it in a Jell-O mold. Remember, they simply can’t decline. They have nowhere else to be.

Socially distanced walking tour

If this works for you, plan a walking-tour route in your neighborhood that takes you to your friends’ homes or to parks or other landmarks. This way, you can see people in real life without compromising anyone’s safety. Wear a mask, and time it out so you can tell people you’re visiting when to be ready. Practice a regal wave.

Movie night

The Netflix Party app allows you to watch a Netflix title simultaneously with multiple viewers. The technology isn’t perfect, but it lets one person stop and start whatever you’re watching for the whole group and gives you a chat room to discuss. We suggest something very silly that you won’t mind messaging through, like Too Hot to Handle.


When attempting to host any party over video chat, it helps to embrace the absurdity of the event, including technical glitches and awkwardness. No activity is better suited to leaning into this than charades, which was embarrassing well before self-isolation. Again, pick a topic you actually enjoy, like Post Malone songs, and force your friends to act them out in a group video chat.

Talent show

If you want to be really Machiavellian, you will make your loved ones prepare a talent to be presented over video chat to be judged for your pleasure. You could make them each give a three-minute TED Talk on their subject of choice, come up with an invention, or sing a song for you. Get creative.

7 Ways to Celebrate Your Birthday in Quarantine