Some of the most memorable and happy times in the year are when families get together to celebrate birthdays, holidays and religious observances.
For milestone dates marking the start of a new decade of birthdays or a wedding anniversary, venues are booked for a meal for an intimate date or a grand party. Yet, when there is a health crisis, family celebrations can mean the families or communities are unable to meet up as they are used to.
However, it is possible to adapt so that meaningful celebrations can still take place.
Here are some ideas:
If you were due to celebrate your anniversary with a cruise, but the trip is now postponed, download a video of the sea and pour yourselves a glass of champagne. Change into shorts or a bikini as you sit in comfortable chairs in front of the screen. Add sunglasses and sunhats for full effect when on your Skype or other video chats. This will just confirm that “for better, for worse”, you are a couple who know how to make the best of every situation.
Another idea is to dress up as if going out for a fancy dinner.
Then order your favourite food that you enjoy as a romantic dinner for two at home. If it is a milestone anniversary, like a 25th wedding anniversary, make sure you have ordered your gifts online in time for presenting them before dessert. With no smartphones or other technology to distract you, you will have a wonderful evening.
If your anniversary is in the summer, consider a picnic in the garden. Move your coffee table outside and sit on a blanket around it. Put up fairy lights around the garden too and enjoy each other’s company under a starry night sky.
Organise a surprise drive-by by family and friends of the person whose birthday it is. Buy some individually wrapped cakes for everyone taking part, which can represent the slice of cake they would have got at an actual birthday party if it had been able to take place. The efforts of all those to make this happen will create a precious birthday memory to treasure.
If gifts sent for a birthday are delayed, improvise with a handcrafted gift. Similar to a Russian doll, take a box a box with smaller boxes inside. Within each box is a photograph glued onto an envelope that has a message from each family member that can be digitally sent to the person in the family taking responsibility for printing out the photos and text and putting the gift together. This is a thoughtful gift and one that can be cherished forever.
Maintain religious observances
Whether religious observances be Easter, Passover, Eid Al-Fitr or Vaisakhi, you can preserve some of your traditions around religious observances even if they have always been large gatherings. Religious services are often available to view online. Depending on where you live, these may be live events or popular recordings of observances from past years.
To feel closer to your family, even if only in spirit, choose to view the same online service at the same time. This gives more depth to the occasion and the chance for you to talk about it together later on the phone or via FaceTime, Skype and all the other communication tools available. When an entire community is affected by a health crisis, your local religious leader may hold a religious ceremony on a virtual conferencing service like Zoom for which you can request an invitation.
Traditional family meals
Nearly all family celebrations involve the coming together of interconnected families to eat. You can continue this tradition by sending out an invitation via Zoom or House Party, inviting guests to join you for a virtual meal. If there is a particular dish for the occasion, send the recipe around to everyone so they can make their own.
Hold onto your cultural celebrations during a health crisis.
For example, if you are stranded overseas as an Iranian national, celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year, by making sabzi polo ba mahi, which is a dish not usually eaten at other times of the year.