“Definitely not the 21st I would ever imagine” — celebrating a birthday in quarantine

“Definitely not the 21st I would ever imagine” — celebrating a birthday in quarantine

Photo Credits: KAITLYN PANG / AGGIE

A look at how students spent their 21st birthdays in quarantine

Among the many special occasions that college students celebrate, a 21st birthday is among the most anticipated. It is a birthday that recognizes a legal gateway into the world of alcohol and a new stage of adulthood. While many usually celebrate their 21st with a trip to the bar, a party or any other elaborately planned celebration, students turning 21 amid the pandemic have had to forego these milestones for an alternative in quarantine. 

COVID-19 regulations have forced these birthdays to be altered and celebrated in different ways than what was once expected. Taylor Silva, a third-year English and neurobiology, physiology and behavior major (NPB), celebrated her 21st at home with her family. She ordered take-out Chinese food for dinner and later had birthday cake. A few days prior, she also had a small cake celebration with her housemates at Davis. Above all, Silva looks forward to the day where she will be able to go out and celebrate the way she had hoped. 

“I keep saying, ‘I’m going to celebrate my 21st when things reopen,’” Silva said. “It couldn’t happen on my birthday, but I’m still going to celebrate eventually when I can. It’ll be fun when I finally do get to go out.”

Kaylena Principe, third-year NPB major, celebrated her 21st with a drive-by parade of friends and family. Principe’s family planned the celebration in an effort to keep her birthday special, even decorating outside with balloons and posters. 

Family and friends passed by in their decorated cars and wished Principe a happy birthday. As each car passed by, there were stations for getting drinks, giving presents and even receiving goody bags for any kids on board. Of course, these exchanges were socially distant, with plenty of gloves and hand sanitizer involved.

Overall, Principe found value in the experience, as it allowed her to appreciate the people in her life and all that they do for her. 

“I was so overwhelmed seeing everyone because I’m lucky enough to have a lot of my family be in the area, but there were people who drove like two and a half hours from parts of the Bay to just see me for five minutes,” Principe said. “I was so overwhelmed that people came and it just felt really great. So you definitely do gain a new perspective, I really did. It was just kind of really eye opening. I didn’t really have this whole bourgie birthday up in Napa on a party bus, [but] I have everyone around me and like that’s more than enough.” 

 Lauren Ford, a third-year NPB major, similarly celebrated her birthday at home with a drive-by celebration where loved ones wished her a happy birthday. Later in the day, her neighbors toasted a glass of champagne from their porches in celebration. 

Ford said that despite her birthday not being what she expected, she appreciated the effort the people in her life put to make her day special during such difficult circumstances. 

“It was definitely not the 21st I would ever imagine: no bars, no excessive drinking,” Ford said. “But all of the people in my life wanted to make up these losses by making me feel even more special.”

On the other side of the exchange, third-year animal science major Charlize Zuraek created a special experience for her housemate’s birthdays. In a creative effort to mimic what the birthday would’ve been like during normal times in Davis, Zuraek and her housemates surprised their other housemates and set up their apartment to create a bar hopping experience. Each room in the apartment was themed as a different bar in Davis, and Zuraek and her housemates even dressed up as bouncers to check ID cards at the entrance of each room. 

“For 3rd & U we got Denogginizers, for Red 88 we made a shotski, switched out all the lightbulbs for red ones and made a wheel to spin, for Froggy’s we set up karaoke with a projector, […] for Bistro we made mojitos and set up string lights outside and for Parkside we made fishbowls,” Zuraek said.

Whether it’s a drive-by parade or ordering a special meal, a “trip” to the Davis bars or a communal champagne toast, there are many ways to celebrate a birthday during quarantine. As a word of advice to students who have upcoming birthdays during this time, Ford shared the importance of acknowledging what was lost in order to truly enjoy the day and recognize its beauty. 

“Go in with no expectations, but allow yourself to mourn what you missed,” Ford said. “By giving myself space to be upset about the bars closing, my friends moving back home and my birthday setting taking place in the Bay rather than Davis, I allowed myself to just enjoy what was given during the day. At the end of the day, a birthday is a celebration of your life and you don’t need big parties, alcohol or your best friends in your location to do so.”

Written by: Nora Farahdel — features@theaggie.org