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FaceTime games and margaritas with mom: Celebrating 21st birthdays in quarantine


DTH Photo Illustration. COVID-19 has posed many challenges for those turning 21 and wanting to enjoy that rite-of-passage party.

A typical 21st birthday at UNC might take large groups of friends bar-hopping from He’s Not Here to Might as Well — but this year, given the risk of COVID-19, students are finding creative ways to celebrate the milestone of adulthood. 

From margaritas with parents to playing online games with friends, 21st birthdays have looked a little different in 2020. Here's how these UNC students celebrated in quarantine. 

Takeout in the backyard 

Alexis Tammi, a senior business major, turned 21 in October. Originally, she was going to have a party with all her friends and have a bar crawl at the end of the night.

“There is a very specific college 21st birthday experience, and I think especially a Franklin Street bars experience, where you go out at midnight,” Tammi said.

She knew this wouldn't be possible and ended up celebrating by staying home with her family and her boyfriend. They got takeout from Allen & Son Bar-B-Que in Pittsboro and had cake from Whole Foods Market out on her back porch.

“I felt good in a societal sense,” Tammi said. “I was like ‘I did the responsible thing,’ but I’m hoping that maybe for my 22nd, I’ll get to do the quintessential 21st experience.” 

She had also planned to do a big group Zoom call, but since her friends had been getting together to play Among Us and Jackbox Games over FaceTime, they did that the following day.

Margaritas with the parents

Prasiddhi Jain, a senior majoring in computer science and biostatistics, had her 21st birthday in April, shortly after the U.S began to feel the effects of the virus. 

Instead of going out as she had originally planned, Jain celebrated her 21st birthday at home with her family. 

“My parents still made my birthday really special, which was really nice,” Jain said.

Her mom made her a scrapbook that doubled as clues to a scavenger hunt throughout the day in her house. At the end of the night, her parents set up a mini bar for her to drink margaritas.

“They did the whole ‘Let me check your ID,’ ‘What do you want to order?’ type of deal,” Jain said.

Her mom made a special dinner, and she also got to have a video call with her friends. 

“My parents did make it really memorable so it was really nice,” Jain said. “I do get to celebrate other nights and things with my friends, especially now that I’m back in school.”

Jain said it would be ideal to have a “21st part two” and go big for her 22nd birthday if she’s able to do so.

“It wasn't as disappointing as I expected it to be because my family always goes all out for birthdays, so it was still really special, as special as it could be during this time,” Jain said.

 A small party with roommates 

While both Tammi and Jain spent their birthdays with their families, some students were able to have small parties with their friends. 

Zoey Howe, a senior double majoring in political science and Russian language and literature, had a party with her roommates in October. 

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“I understood why it’s not feasible to have a big party, but it was definitely disappointing,” Howe said. 

Howe’s friends challenged her to do all the typical birthday things, such as calling her 21st contact and taking 21 selfies. She said her friends really put in the effort to make her birthday feel special

They had cocktails, Howe made a playlist and her friends made her a 21st birthday sign with tasks to complete.

“I really think my friends know I'm a big birthday person," Howe said. "I love my birthday, and they really put in the effort to make sure it was still going to be special."