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5 ways to celebrate when you can’t be there

birthday party
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A dear friend or loved one is celebrating a significant day—a special birthday or milestone, or even a promotion—but for one reason or another, you can’t be there. Try as you might, your work schedule just can’t be budged. Or the distance is too great. Or, as the vast majority of people can understand only too well in the “new normal,” the need to shelter in place now takes precedence over our regular activities.

Experiencing a global pandemic has presented unwelcome challenges for most of us. Serious health crisis and economic downturns aside, the unhappy impact it has had on many personal relationships has been devastating. It’s heartbreaking to know that there are countless family members who have not been able to see each other for months, except maybe virtually or from a distance, or friends who can’t be physically present for each other.

Simple things like celebrating family milestones together at a favorite restaurant, or organizing an intimate gathering of friends may be difficult at the moment, but thankfully, we human beings are a resilient and creative lot. There are ways around this season of separation and isolation in which we can still make occasions feel special. All it takes is a little bit of imagination and resourcefulness. Here are 5 ways to celebrate special days when you can’t be physically present:

Send the perfect gift—a party in a box!

If you celebrate a loved one’s birthday every year and you don’t want to break that tradition now, you can send them an entire party as a gift! Just assemble all their favorite snacks and knick-knacks and pack them all into one colorfully wrapped box or gift basket. Have it delivered to their home together with a special card or party banner. If sourcing out specific snack or gift items for birthdays or other occasions is a problem, just have the experts do it for you. The birthday celebration gift box, for example, is a carefully curated assortment of special treats, including a confetti mini cake with sprinkles, cupcake cookies, chocolate chip cookies, jelly beans, chips, popcorn, snack mixes, and even a musical candle that plays a birthday tune! You can even choose your delivery date! It’s the next best thing to actually being there for their big day.

Throw a virtual surprise roast and toast

Get the family or group together for a virtual surprise party for a loved one. Much like hiding in a dark room before springing the surprise, plan to gather online 30 minutes earlier than the appointed time and wait for the celebrant to “arrive.” Make the moment memorable by using noisemakers and on-screen visuals as everyone shouts “surprise!” To keep the party going, prepare a fun program of silly games that can be projected onscreen, as well as funny roasts and toasts. To add a festive touch, arrange to have the above-mentioned party-in-a-box gift basket sent to them at the exact time as the surprise party.

Organize a movie or concert watch party

If your gang had prior plans to get tickets to the coolest shows in town, you don’t have to miss out on a bonding opportunity just because you have to stay home. Try attending a virtual concert together or organizing a movie watch party. Performers and musicians have made their shows available online, often for free. Watch parties are easy to set up and certain social media platforms provide access to a ton of movies. These virtual screenings even allow participants to exchange comments during the show, making for a fun, interactive activity.

Create a special tribute video

If organizing a full-blown virtual party for someone is not possible at the moment, then creating a tribute video is a simpler, but equally meaningful option. Ask a number of friends and loved ones to record a one-minute video greeting—they can be as creative as they want—and have all the video files sent to you online. Use a video editing app or tool to put all the greetings and tributes together, and present the finished video to the celebrant as an online gift. It’s sure to put a huge smile on their face, or even draw a few happy tears. This would be a great gift for someone who may be struggling with isolation and loneliness during lockdown.

Take them on a shopping spree

Curate a selection of 20 things you know a friend would like for their birthday, bridal shower, or any special occasion, and then ask them to “shop” and choose their top 10 items from the list. Have 10 other friends and loved ones purchase or acquire one item each. Collect the gifts and have them sent in one package on the big day, or send them one by one for a memorable shower of gifts.

Final word

Celebrating someone from a distance may be challenging, but it can also be wonderfully unforgettable. No matter how elaborate or simple the celebration, what will count the most is how you made that friend or loved one feel on their special day.