Birthday celebrations during COVID-19: Aries Edition

Ruby Garcia ’24 and Eli Hinerfield ’24. Courtesy of Katie Reisig ’24

While COVID-19 restrictions make it difficult for big birthday bashes to be held on the quad or packed into a Main suite, Vassar students have found a way to make the most out of their situation by hosting subtle celebrations instead. 

Jules Cianciotta ’24 rang in her March 22 birthday by watching reruns of “America’s Next Top Model” with her pod. As soon as the clock struck midnight, her pod sang “Happy Birthday” with a few other masked friends joining in for the chorus from the hallway. “It was just a really cute moment with a few of my favorite people making it extra special,” she said. Afterwards, Cianciotta and her pod spent a few hours sitting in the hallway talking about everything from dinosaurs to fun socks. “It was a lot of laughs and smiles and just a really positive way to start off my birthday,” she said of those early morning hours. 

As for the rest of her day, Cianciotta spent it in various ways: class, ordering Chinese food and relaxing in Noyes’ MPR. While Cianciotta usually favors over-the-top celebrations with a lot of people, she was happy to downsize this year to keep herself and others safe. “COVID kept me from having more people [invited] and a bigger party, but all in all it was pretty fun,” she admitted. Her favorite gifts included a “blanket-sweatshirt hybrid,” otherwise known as a comfy, from her roommate and a gold bracelet from her boyfriend. 

Cianciotta, whose only birthday wishes were to have a Fudgie the Whale cake—for those not familiar, Fudgie the Whale is the best ice cream cake ever, created and exclusively sold in Carvels, a predominantly East Coast ice cream franchise—and for everyone to enjoy themselves, was very happy with a relaxed celebration this year. “It was a pretty chill birthday, it was nothing big and it really shouldn’t have been big because of COVID anyways,” she noted. 

Jules Cianciotta ’24 and Joseph McMahon ’24. Courtesy of Abbie Smith ’24

Katie Reisig ’24, a fellow Aries, turned 19 on March 28. She celebrated with an eventful birthday weekend full of fun festivities, good food and even better friends. To kick off the celebration, her parents ordered takeout for her and her podmates from a Mexican restaurant, complete with vanilla and chocolate cupcakes topped with pastel frosting. Her aunt also sent an assortment of fancy cheeses, which were quickly used to make late-night grilled cheese sandwiches. Other surprises sent from home included flowers and Taylor Swift socks from her parents. One of her favorite gifts was an Aries-themed vinyl from her friend Steven. 

In terms of festivities, Reisig and her pod decided to throw a COVID-safe iCarly party, complete with an iCarly and Victorious playlist and homemade Penny Tees just like the characters made in the show. “I love my birthday and this was the first time in a long time that I didn’t spend it with my family, but my friends made it amazing and my family sent love from home,” she commented. Reisig’s intimate get-together concluded around the fire pits stationed by Ely Hall with music, late-night conversations and round after round of musical chairs with friends. While COVID-19 restrictions swiftly narrowed down the ways Reisig could celebrate, she was just glad to have had the opportunity to be around her friends in a safe environment. “Being outside and keeping the circle small helped keep us safe and happy,” she explained. 

Tabby Hannam ’23, who celebrated her 20th birthday on April 2, adored her birthday celebration this year. To start her day, Hannam called her family back home to catch up and open presents they had sent. Katie Grove ’23, a close friend of Hannam’s, then spent the rest of the day orchestrating a slew of surprises. Such surprises included a lunch with friends in Blodgett’s courtyard, dinner from Falafel Town and gooey cinnamon rolls for dessert in Cushing. Surrounded by pod members, the Boxing Nuns Ultimate Frisbee team and a group of friends from her dorm, Hannam expressed nothing but gratitude and happiness for the celebrations. 

Hannam’s favorite part of the day was when two of her friends surprised her with homemade cinnamon rolls, still soft and warm from the oven. They were able to enjoy these sweet confections with Lizzo and Taylor Swift on shuffle in the background. “My friend Katie had already pulled out so many surprises and that was the metaphorical cherry on top,” Hannam commented. 

While it was difficult working out the logistics of celebrating birthdays during a pandemic, the biggest issues being how many people can be invited and what space can safely fit an appropriate number of people, Cianciotta, Reisig and Hannam all safely navigated Aries season without sacrificing the fun of a birthday celebration. “The older I get, [birthdays have] definitely become more of a chance to spend time with friends and family than to be oriented around presents,” Hannam added.

All three women emphasized that the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday was being surrounded by friends, good food and music. Luckily, they were able to do just that by utilizing the pod system, Grubhub, on-campus fire pits and nostalgic 2010’s hits.

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