The COVID-19 pandemic has been the cause of many changes in our everyday lives, but one of the hardest to cope with has been our inability to gather with loved ones. We miss the in-person connection, the camaraderie and the compassionate care that comes with being surrounded by the people who love and support us.
This can be especially true on special occasions that would normally be marked by pomp, circumstance and celebration. From births and birthdays to graduations and weddings, we have been forced to become very creative in how we mark these milestone moments while sheltering in place.
In the early days of the outbreak, it seemed the only way to safely celebrate a momentous occasion was to schedule a video call with several people. And once the glitches — slow Wi-Fi, tech newbie struggles and hard-to-find mute buttons — were worked out, it did provide a bit of relief for our aching hearts, yearning to be with those most important to us.
However, thanks to social media, local news segments and some creative sign makers, we have discovered new ways to party — not quite like 1999, but oh-so-very 2020.
How to party during a pandemic
A sign of the times
While the neighborhood usually learned that you were marking a big birthday or special event by your guests’ cars parked along the streets or wafts of barbecue filling the air, yard signs are now found throughout communities, marking everything from a new baby being born to a senior graduating from high school or college. This might normally be considered a little too showy for most, but in these days when good news can be hard to find, no one seems to begrudge a family who wants to shout it from their yard sign that something great has occurred.
Every day is a parade
Queuing up in a line of slow-moving cars usually sounds dreadful, but when it comes after weeks of rarely getting behind the wheel and work commutes of steps down a hall rather than miles down a freeway, it can feel pretty exhilarating. This is especially true if you’re lining up to drive by the home of a friend or family member who is marking a special day or is simply missed. There have been parades of teachers driving through neighborhoods, just to see their students’ smiling faces; birthday parades featuring cars decorated with streamers and filled with kids yelling out to the friends they truly miss; and, in an alternate version of pandemic parades, celebratory people in cars lining the streets to cheer a new baby, a person who recovered from COVID-19, or members of a high school or college senior class as they make their way through the stream of spectators.
Some good news
As local news reporters work from their own homes or strive to keep themselves safe by using 10-foot microphone poles when out in the field, they’ve also taken it upon themselves to help their viewers celebrate milestones in a memorable way. Whether profiling local high school athletes with photos and recaps of the seasons they played before schools and fields were closed, or saluting seniors by noting their accomplishments and future plans, bringing the celebrations into homes via the small screen has added an exceptionally special element not usually available in “normal” times. And, if you happen to capture photos or video of a special stay-at-home celebration in your neighborhood, send it to the local news desk and you might be able to call yourself a special correspondent.
Front yard fiestas
Sure, masks are required and everyone has to stay at least 6 feet from each other, but seeing the people who are most important to you in real life can feel amazing after weeks of separation. People have gathered in driveways, around cul-de-sacs , under windows of care facilities and on their balconies to cheer for caregivers, listen to a neighbor’s musical performance, toast a newly married couple or congratulate a graduate. High school principals across the country are even making hundred-mile road trips to personally deliver diplomas for an extremely personal graduation celebration.
While these gatherings aren’t quite the same as pre-pandemic parties, they allow us to inch a little closer to once again coming together.
Check with your local county guidelines to determine what types of celebrations are allowed. The County of San Diego regularly posts updates to the public health order with guidance on gatherings, physical distancing and face covering requirements.