My husband, Navin, and I are big on birthdays.
We love having a fun time with our family and friends, and creating different themes and exciting activities for our kids, Yugan, 5, and Avyaan, 2.
This year, we were going to have a BBQ party at East Coast Park for my eldest son Yugan’s fifth birthday. But with Covid-19 – and then the circuit breaker – that plan quickly went down the drain.
Fortunately, Yugan understood the reason why we could not have a celebration as usual. And we told him we would do something after all of this was “over” (whenever that is).
But I kept thinking of how we could make the most of this situation and celebrate it meaningfully – still with friends and family, while also practicing social distancing.
At first, Navin and I just figured we would get a cake, cut it virtually with family and that would be that. Somehow, I just felt that we could do more, and not let Covid dampen the party.
And so, the planning began!
Yugan loves Ninjago, so the theme was a given. We decided to feature the Green Ninja because, as Yugan explained, “He is my favourite because he has a green super ball special power.” Obviously.
Next up – a little over two weeks before the party date – I engaged my work colleague and friend Shruthi, who is the event curator at InTheEvent. She helped me to create a cute digital invitation with the scheduled Zoom meeting details (see below) – I just sent her an image from Google as inspiration. It took less than 24 hours to get the final design.
The week before the party, I shared the e-invite with friends and family via WhatsApp. One nice thing about hosting a virtual party during the circuit breaker? You pretty much know everyone will be able to “attend”!
I also hired InTheEvent to design a handmade, customised banner and T-shirts for my family to wear on the day of the party. We decided to have a little fun with the T-shirt messages. For instance, Yugan’s shirt said: “My 5th birthday – the one where we had to stay home, 2020”. That’s us wearing them, below.
The shirts were actually printed by Sleeping Bunnies, and we did a contactless pick-up a few days before the party. Ditto for the banner, though InTheEvent can mail or deliver party items, if you are interested.
A close friend Nausheen – and baker of Heavenly Bites Sg – baked a cool Ninjago-themed cake, and my husband picked it up contactless as well. (Want to find out about the best contactless payment services in SG? Read this.)
I then thought about how I could include Yugan’s friends and our family into the Zoom party so they could get some cake, too. After all, what is a party without cake, right?!
Ambitiously, I decided to bake cupcakes for every one of the kids and their parents. This required spending about 2 hours at a Redman Shop by Phoon Huat outlet to get all of the supplies, from food colouring to paper cupcake carriers. The queue outside was long (40 minutes) because of the social distancing measures, and everyone had on masks.
(Want to read more about why baking is the new black during these quarantine times, check out this recent story.)
The actual baking was tiring but fun. I started baking the cupcakes the night before and did the icing on the day. To come up with the Green Ninja cupcake design, I Googled some simple icing images.
Towards the end of the hours-long icing session, I ran out of icing sugar and vanilla extract and made to with what we had: caster sugar and maple syrup. In total, we made about 70 cupcakes. I’d like to give a special “thanks” to our amazing helper, who helped me get them all done!
As the cupcakes were completed, we carefully packed them into cupcake boxes, and Navin made delivery runs around the island. Despite terrible thundery, rainy weather, he managed got them to everyone in time for the party.
Some of our friends and family members passed gifts through him to give to Yugan, and some ordered the presents to the house or sent e-gifts. Yugan was most grateful and excited to receive them!
(Side note: I actually kept the Zoom party bit a secret from Yugan – and hid all the presents – until the day of his birthday, so it was a surprise that he’d be having a virtual party.)
We set up the Zoom party in our living room, with the banner behind us – and wearing our T-shirts. We had planned to connect our laptop to our TV, but ran into technical difficulties.
Instead, I ended up perching my phone on the coffee table to film us, while we watched the virtual party on our larger TV, and mirrored one screen to the other (here’s how to mirror, if you’re not sure). The only downside: We had to keep swiping the screen to see everyone.
At 5:30 p.m., everyone “joined” the party, and the celebrations began! Tip: If you’ve never hosted a Zoom meeting, you’ll need to “allow” guests into the meeting, and just like with IRL parties, some people arrive late. So, check back every so often to make sure that partygoers don’t miss the fun.
We sang “Happy Birthday” and ate cake together virtually! Yugan’s reaction was priceless, full of excitement and happiness.
Being a professional photographer and mum, of course, I took loads of pictures of us and of Yugan with his gifts, cake and the banner. We got some pictures of those who Zoomed in, too. (To DIY, follow Zoom’s instructions to Capture Screen.)
Proud Mum Postscript
I think this birthday may have been even more special, because we pulled it off despite the challenges. Plus, we managed to get everyone close to Yugan to celebrate it together – which isn’t always possible during the best of times!
Separately, I was so proud of Yugan, because his birthday wish was to provide food for others in Singapore who don’t have much food during this time. We fulfilled this wish by working with Itsrainingraincoats, and providing meals for migrant workers through Madras New Woodlands Restaurant (full disclosure: It’s my family’s restaurant) on Yugan’s actual birthday.
He also sent a video to the workers with a short message. They were so sweet and sent us a video singing happy birthday and blessing the birthday boy.
So, to the coronavirus, I say this: Ain’t no pandemic gonna take away our love for a good party and sharing food with others. Covid schmovid!
By Ashtalaxmi Dinakaran of Ash D Photography, May 2020
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