Students Celebrate Birthdays During Quarantine

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Media by Maren Bunderson

Jaimee Bunderson, sophomore, stands in front of the birthday lawn signs saying "Happy Sweet 16 Jaimee."

From hotel ballrooms to expensive dresses, Jaimee Bunderson, sophomore, had big plans for her Sweet 16. But instead, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

Bunderson said her friends were planning a huge surprise birthday party. She also was looking forward to getting her driver’s license during this time.

“I’m so sad that it didn’t happen,” Bunderson said. “But there wasn’t anything I could do to prevent the virus.” 

Bunderson said she woke up in a “heart attack” to heart-shaped notes on her bedroom wall from her friends and family. 

Throughout the day, friends decorated their cars with signs and honked their horns to sing Happy Birthday while maintaining a six-foot distance.

Others dropped presents off and FaceTimed Bunderson to wish her a happy birthday. 

“My family and friends worked so hard to give me so many great birthday surprises,” Bunderson said. “Their hard work really paid off and I’m so grateful for them.”

According to MHS Registrar, more than 500 students will have birthdays during the quarantine period based on its current length, and many of those students will still celebrate in some way 

Dimitris Xygalatas, an anthropologist and cognitive scientist at the University of Connecticut, said it is important birthdays are still to be celebrated.

“These ceremonies give us a sense of meaning, completion and purpose,” Xygalatas said. “And by bringing together a whole group of people, they create a collective experience that gives us the feeling that our moment is important for the whole group.”

Xygalatas said the main thing the celebration might be missing is the element of human connection. This means the socially distanced meeting might not feel exactly the same.

There are two main ways to recreate these important celebrations, he said. One is to do it online and the other is to do a socially-distanced gathering. 

Sahithi Tadakamalla, freshman, decided to re-create her birthday virtually through Zoom. 

“It made me feel really good,” Tadakamalla said. “It showed me no matter what, my friends will always be there.”

Tadakamalla’s original plan was to go to a restaurant with her family on the day of her birthday. Even though the plan didn’t work out, she said her birthday was still special. 

“I got to hang out with my family and spend quality time with them which was really fun,” Tadakamalla said. “It is always better to look on the positive side of things, but my birthday truly was perfect.”