The coronavirus has dramatically changed the way we celebrate moments and milestones. Before the pandemic sent Americans into lockdown, occasions like weddings, proms, graduations, and birthday parties were close, personal events. Children and students packed together to celebrate an important, unforgettable moment in their lives.
But in the age of social distancing, it’s nearly impossible to honor those milestones the same way. Instead, quarantine has led to creative, if long-distance, methods to share our joy and support each other during important times.
With bowling parties, swimming parties, restaurants, and Chuck-E-Cheese out of the question, children and adults alike have celebrated their birthdays in new and inventive ways.
Most popular is the “virtual birthday” party over Zoom that allows all invitees to chat, play games, and dress up. Others, like 15-year-old Corinne White of Lexington, are celebrating with a “drive-by” birthday party. This works with the birthday girl or boy sitting inside or outside to wave to friends and family as they drive (or walk!) by.
As Corinne’s father explained, “You got to do something to celebrate. It just struck me that it was something to bring the community together and show her love.” Up to 30 cars rolled by honking, waving, and shouting birthday wishes to Corrinee during her drive-by, with some of the cars even decorated with balloons and signs.
“It was a great surprise,” Corinne said. “I saw one of my friends coming down the street, then another and another and I burst out crying.”
Prom isn’t an easy milestone to replicate virtually, but high schoolers are trying anyway. Using Zoom, Tik Tok, Twitch, and YouTube, groups of high school friends have posed in their dresses, played music and danced, and tried to make the best of an unusual situation.
Come celebrities are even joining these virtual proms to make sure high-schoolers don’t miss out on a memorable prom experience. Actor John Krasinksi, for example, hosted his own prom with help from celebrities like the Jonas Brothers and Billie Eilish.
The “drive-in graduation” has become a popular solution for high schoolers and college students being robbed of their once-in-a-lifetime graduation experience. Some schools, like a community in Wichita, Kansas, are renting drive-in theaters to honor graduates from a distance.
Clinton High School in Clinton, Arkansas is taking the idea one step further. Students are allotted individual 15-minute graduation ceremonies in the school auditorium. The senior and a small group of family members are permitted to attend as long as they don masks and pass a temperature screening. Once inside, the senior walks the stage, moves his or her tassel, and stops for a photo. Those photos will be incorporated into a full length video to be aired at the drive-in theater to commemorate all graduating seniors.
Other schools are making graduation a virtual event or postponing until summer or even Thanksgiving.
One thing is for sure: not even a pandemic can stop the human spirit from finding ways to celebrate joy.