Kate McCabe / Gavel Media

Quarantine Birthdays Require Improvisation for Celebration

A lot of candles have been blown out while students remain in quarantine, presumably with one wish in mind: a return to normalcy, an end to the perilous pandemic that is COVID-19.

The Gavel reached out to some Boston College students to see how they are handling the celebration of birthdays in quarantine.

Hal Knowlton, MCAS ‘21, had been looking forward to his twenty-first birthday; specifically exercising his new privilege to visit a bar or liquor store and buy a celebratory drink. He hadn’t anticipated that drink to be a corona. 

Despite not actually being able to go out on his birthday, Knowlton confirms that he had a good day. This was thanks to his girlfriend, who surprised him with a zoom session of Jackbox games, his roommates, who zoomed with him for a few hours while he (legally) imbibed, and his family, who made tacos and cake and spent time with him in celebration.

“A bunch of family and friends also texted, Facetimed, and called me to wish me happy birthday,” Knowlton says. 

When envisioning her golden birthday––turning 22 on March 22–––Alexandra Shea, MCAS ’20, had expected an exciting celebration filled with friends, and a celebratory birthday cocktail to savor her last birthday while in college. Instead, she enjoyed a relaxing day with her family opening presents, toasting with Prosecco, and ordering in Asian food for dinner.

“It was just as great a birthday as I had planned, albeit very different,” Shea explains. “I’m glad I actually got to spend my birthday with my family, the people who have known me since literally day one!”

Students’ family and friends who could not physically be present put in extra effort to make sure their birthdays were still special. 

“Some family members and friends sent me videos instead of wishing me happy birthday in person, so I got to see some people from a safe distance,” Claire Meylan, MCAS ’20, says. “I still got to have cake and a nice dinner. It was nice to be home and around family despite everything going on.”

The onset of COVID-19 has reinforced the notion that sometimes even the best-laid plans do not turn out––and that is okay.

“My roommate’s birthday is a few days before mine, so everyone in the room had been planning on doing a joint-birthday thing to make it double the fun,” Svea McNally, Lynch ’22, recalls, “but, before each of us turned 20, BC decided to boot us all from campus so those plans were scrapped. It was nice to have a birthday at home and spend it with my family like old times.”

Since her home state of Minnesota was under a shelter-in-place order at the time, McNally couldn’t go out to eat with her family to celebrate, but she was still happy to have a favorite home-cooked meal instead.

“While it was nice to be with my family, I was definitely still bummed that I wasn’t celebrating in the way that I had been looking forward to for a while!” McNally says. A widely shared, understandable feeling.

If having a birthday during quarantine sounds tough, Abby Adamkoski, Lynch ’20, has a birthday that fell on the last day of the abbreviated semester.

“My birthday was March 15, the day we all had to say goodbye, so the day itself was really sad,” Adamkoski remembers. “The night before was great though, honestly. Friends tried hard to make it fun despite the circumstances, which I really appreciated.”

In spite of the sadness from not being able to celebrate with friends, many students are grateful for the opportunity to spend birthdays with their families, just like when they were younger.

“As a triplet, I’ve grown accustomed to big birthday parties. Sadly, the past few years, my brothers and I spent our birthday apart, even for the milestone twenty-first,” Caroline Downey, MCAS ’20 explains. “The silver lining of quarantine is that we got to celebrate our twenty-second together again!”

While birthdays have been different from what they expected, BC students in quarantine have enjoyed the chance to bond and celebrate with family and friends––just through Zoom. Regardless of the circumstances, these special days still deserve to be honored with as much festivity as possible.

Ashley Stauber is a senior in MCAS studying Psychology and Political Science. She was born in Connecticut but has lived in Philadelphia for most of her life with her parents, sister, and manx cat. She has always loved to write, especially for Features, and was Editor in Chief for Layout of her high school newspaper. Aside from the Gavel she is involved in BC Model United Nations, Group Fitness as a Pilates and Barre Instructor, BCFullSwing, UGBC, and RHA. Fun fact: While studying abroad in Parma, Italy last semester she unintentionally ran a half marathon with her computer.