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Milestone birthdays in the time of COVID-19


A man and woman on a rocky beach smile into the camera, blue sky and water behind them.
My father-in-law (on the right) had a milestone birthday this year. While our celebration looked different, we didn’t let that stop us from celebrating him!

For me, celebrating birthdays is typically an excuse to gather together. It’s a time for creating and sharing memories with our loved ones.

This year looked a little different. My father-in-law had a milestone birthday and we knew we weren’t going to be able to gather together. Initially, we were kind of sad about this and wondered, “Now what? How do we celebrate this momentous occasion for dad?”

So, we started looking for other ways we could celebrate.

Ideas for celebrating safely

We found many creative ways to celebrate out there: birthday parades, timed messages throughout the day, and, if you’re in the same location, front door visits while maintaining physical distancing. All these creative ideas continue to support connection and celebration, all while following public health measures. So, while our celebration looked different, we certainly didn’t let that stop us from celebrating!

A special birthday slide show

We landed on the idea of creating a special birthday slide show for my father-in-law. Each of my in-laws’ smaller family units created a short ‘Happy Birthday’ video and sent them to my husband. Then, he put them all together into one longer message and added in background music. The final product wasn’t shared with anyone ahead of time, that way we could all enjoy the video together. We gathered on Zoom to watch his celebration video. It was just what we needed to feel like we were connected to him and each other for his special day.

Creating family memories

There were a few tears and many laughs as we spent time chatting about memories over the years. While this was a different kind of celebration than we’re used to, it really was a great way to connect and celebrate. Who knows, maybe it will become the new family milestone birthday tradition!