My birthday party was all set, and, although I knew it would be a different way to celebrate, I couldn’t wait to see my closest friends again. Lockdown number one was long and tiring. The feeling of a little bit of normality started to come back with the return of a social life. Then the second lockdown happened. I couldn’t help it; I felt sad and disappointed. Maybe it would be best to skip it? How fun can celebrating your birthday be, if you can’t spend it with your loved ones? 

Little did I know that my friends had got creative, and planned to surprise me (from a social distance!)

My bestie and I were having a cake picnic in the park, when suddenly a couple of bikes passed by. They belonged to friends of mine, who then gave me a present of a photo collage of our pre-Covid get-togethers. We spent only fifteen minutes together, spaced apart, but that didn’t matter – they had managed to put a huge smile on my face. So did another friend of mine, who lives five hours away from me. She had sent me a bouquet of flowers, which were waiting on my doorstep. But that wasn’t all. The last surprise of the day came when I went onto my balcony, and my neighbour put his music box on his windowsill to play the Stevie Wonder happy birthday song for me. 

My friends knew how important that day was for me, and they wanted to make it special, despite the situation we were in. This made me realize that we do have some options to show that we care, even from a distance. Though sending flowers to your friends may be a bit too much on an ordinary day (or maybe not?) there are still lots of ways  to stay connected, and enjoy quality time with your friends, during this lockdown: 

Send a postcard 

Postcards sound old-fashioned? Maybe, but imagine the excitement of receiving a handwritten postcard from anywhere in the world instead of an email. A postcard is more personal than a digital message, and can brighten up somebody’s day with the familiar handwriting and gesture showing that you were thinking of them.

If you live abroad and can’t return to Oxford this term, you could send your friends in the UK a picture postcard from where you live, and provide a COVID-friendly change of scene. They can put your postcard up on the wall or their fridge and look at it every day. 

Have fun together via zoom

Yes, I know zoom-parties were the big thing in 2020 and now we can’t stand them any more. But I guarantee you will laugh when you play silent karaoke. All you have to do is pick a song, mute yourself, and your friends have to guess which song you’re performing. Alternatively, you can dance to your song instead of singing it. If music is not your thing, use the whiteboard function on zoom to try out Pictionary. The rules are simple: you choose a moderator, make two teams, and in each round one of you has to draw a picture of a word that was randomly chosen by an online word generator. Your team has only sixty seconds to guess the correct answer and get a point. The team with the most points wins. 

Try it, it will be fun! 

Go outside together

When did you build your last snowman or sledge down a hill? If you’re still allowed to meet outside, go outside! And even if there’s no winter wonderland where you are, that’s no problem. Nature is always a good idea, especially when you’re in good company. 

Communication is key 

No matter how you choose to stay in touch, the most important thing is to ask your friends how they truly feel, and listen to what they have to say. We may all struggle during this time, and we all have our ups and downs. Let your friends know that you are there for them. That’s what friends are for, aren’t they? 

Cover photo: Chris Montgomery from Unsplash