How to Celebrate Your Birthday When You Can't Have a Big Party

woman lighting candles on a birthday cake

The Every Hostess

As social distancing rules are still in place around the country, it seems like large-scale parties are still a ways away. But just because you can't host that 20-person dinner you were dreaming about or rent out your favorite bar for a raucous evening of revelry, that doesn't mean your birthday has to go uncelebrated.

You can still make your day special even if you celebrate virtually or on a much smaller scale than you originally planned. All it takes is a little creativity.

Whether you spend an evening toasting with your housemates and family, or host a virtual get together for all of your loved ones, there are plenty of ways to make this birthday one to remember.

Read on for nine creative ways to celebrate your birthday while socially distanced.

01 of 09

Have a Self-Indulgent Self-Care Day

Even under normal circumstances, pampering yourself for the day is a classic birthday treat for a reason. What better way to ring in a new year of life than with a day of relaxation and indulgence? And while getting to a spa for your favorite treatments may not be possible right now, you can still treat yourself at home. Whether you choose a bath bomb, face mask, at-home mani-pedi, or all of the above, you're sure to feel calm and rejuvenated in no time.

02 of 09

Revisit Family Traditions, Virtually

Our editorial director, Allison Bean, recently celebrated her sister's birthday with a new take on a longstanding family tradition. Because the whole family couldn't be together to celebrate—or indulge in the birthday girl's favorite ice cream cake—Allison made sure each faction of the family had their own cake (yes, that meant picking up multiples of the same cake and coordinating a safe, socially distanced drop off). When everyone signed onto the Zoom birthday celebration, the whole family was able to enjoy their beloved birthday sweet treat together. This just goes to show that if there's a birthday tradition you're particularly bummed about losing out on, getting creative and recreating it virtually is always an option.

03 of 09

Have a Virtual Game Night

While virtual happy hours may have lost their luster weeks ago, there are still plenty of ways to make them feel exciting. You don't just have to sip a drink while staring at your friends' faces over Zoom. Instead, consider hosting a game night. Jackbox Games offers a variety of party games that will have you and your friends laughing all night long, but you can also keep things simple and trot out the old standbys like two truths and a lie, or even truth or dare.

04 of 09

Make It a Black Tie Affair

Another simple way to elevate your virtual birthday party? Add a fancy dress code. Throwing on your best party-ready outfit (and maybe even a real pair of shoes instead of the house slippers you wear most days) will instantly make a Zoom call feel like more of an event. Just make sure to give your virtual guests a bit of notice about the dress up aspect, they may need to prep themselves to trade leggings for slacks or a dress.

05 of 09

Create an At-Home Bar Crawl

If you're able to socialize in small groups, or you live with roommates or family, consider creating your very own bar crawl at home. Just like in a real bar crawl, you'll enjoy a different drink at each stop, but instead of traveling around your town, you'll only have to travel from room to room. Come up with a theme—libations inspired by your favorite TV shows or movies, classic cocktails, recreations of drinks from your favorite local haunts, or something else that aligns with your interests—and assign each person a room where they will be tasked with creating an on-theme signature drink. As you move throughout the night you could even vote on the best cocktail if you'd like to add a bit of competition to the mix. As always, drink responsibly, and keep the number of "bar crawl stops" to a reasonable amount.

06 of 09

Host Your Own Wine Tasting

Another idea that works either virtually or with a small group is a wine tasting of your favorite varietals. Pick up to five of your favorite wines to share. If you're going the virtual route, make sure to email the list to your guests at least a week ahead of time. You can then host the tasting in a traditional way, discussing the tasting notes, aromas, and body of each wine, or go your own way and talk your guests through what you like about each option, and ask them to share their thoughts as well. Of course, if you'd like something a little more polished and professional, you could opt for a virtual wine tasting led by an expert, like the ones at Priority Wine Pass.

07 of 09

Learn How to Make Your Favorite Recipe

Now might not be the easiest time to go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, but it is a great time to experiment in the kitchen. If there's a dish you've been meaning to master, why not make it a fun birthday challenge? If you live with a partner, friends, or family, you can all work together and make a night of it, and if you live alone, you could approach the task as a moment of birthday-inspired self improvement, or FaceTime with a friend so you can talk through the process. If your kitchen skills are lacking (hi, guilty!) just make sure to have something else in the freezer or pantry as a backup meal. But even if the recipe doesn't turn out perfect, there's a lot to be said for pushing yourself to try something new.

08 of 09

Or Splurge On a Fancy Meal

Of course, not wanting to cook on your actual birthday is 100% understandable. But that doesn't mean you should go without a special meal. And as restaurants around the country are leaning more and more on takeout and delivery, a standout meal is just a call away. Just give your favorite spot a call to order your go-to items, or take this as an opportunity to finally try a restaurant that's been on your list for ages.

09 of 09

Make a Meaningful Donation

Sure, gifts are nice, but taking a step back and paying it forward on your birthday can be even more satisfying. Set yourself up for a great year ahead by donating to a cause you care about. There are few things better than knowing you've made a difference, especially when so many causes deserve our attention and support. A few organizations to consider supporting include the Southern Poverty Law Center, Feeding America, and American Civil Liberties Union.

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