The third national lockdown is underway in England, meaning everyone has been asked to stay at home as much as possible until at least mid-February.
The new strict rules have put a stop to many people’s plans, including birthday celebrations.
It can feel rubbish not being able to be there in person to make a fuss of your loved one on their special day, but such milestones need not be put on hold completely – there are still plenty of ways you can show them you care.
Now more than ever, it’s important to stay connected and let people know you’re thinking about them, so that’s why we’ve rounded up a host of ideas that ensure birthdays don’t go unmarked.
The way we celebrate special occasions has changed considerably over the course of the last year, but celebrate them we must. While you might not be able to host a party or fancy dinner, there are several apps and websites you can use to commemorate the day with a virtual get-together.
Similarly, while gifting has become increasingly difficult due to postal delays and social distancing measures, there are a number of present ideas that can be sent right to your friend or loved one’s front door.
Here is our round-up of everything you will need to celebrate a birthday during lockdown 3.0, from virtual karaoke sessions to birthday cake deliveries and pre-wrapped pamper packages.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Let them eat cake
Big birthday parties might be out of the question, but that doesn’t mean you need to forgo a cake. If you're unable to celebrate with your loved one in person, Marks & Spencer has got you covered because you can now get its famous Colin the Caterpillar cake delivered straight to your recipients front door.
The retailer’s new Colin the Caterpillar cake gift bag (£25, Marks & Spencer) launches on 26 Jan and comes with a classic Colin chocolate cake, a packet of miniature Colins and three bags of the cartoon insect’s sweets, including the veggie and rainbow jelly versions, and mini Colin chocolate faces. A staple at children’s (and adults) birthday parties, you can’t go wrong with this one.
If chocolate isn’t their thing, we also like this this lemon drizzle cake from Cutter & Squidge (£29.90, Cutter & Squidge).
The postable cake won best buy in our round-up of the best cakes that can be delivered to your door, and it’s not hard to see why. It features two layers that are sandwiched with zingy buttercream and topped with pretty petals and dried raspberries, and it arrives in a beautiful embossed and reusable tin. “There’s also the option of adding a chocolate happy birthday disc and a mini bottle of Bottega gold prosecco. A gorgeous, grown-up gift,” our reviewer said.
If they’re not a cake person – hard to believe, we know – opt for some personalised biscuits instead. In our round-up of the best letterbox cakes and biscuits, Baked by Steph’s denim jacket-shaped cookie (£11.95, Baked by Steph) was highly praised for being a great way to show someone that you care. Steph offers a range of other cookie designs, including a happy birthday set (£26, Baked by Steph), which you can add a gift message to.
Send a personal message
While virtual video chats have become the new norm during the pandemic, there is more to staying in touch than just FaceTime or Skype.
If you want to let the birthday person know you’re thinking of them, head to Tribute – a website that allows you to invite a group of people to upload short video messages which are then compiled into one montage. You decide on the order you want each person to appear and even add effects.
Prices start from $25 (£20) and you can choose to have your Tribute video delivered on a USB wrapped in a gift box or in a video card. Delivery charges start from £25.
Best of the bunch
Flowers are one of the best ways to let someone know you’re thinking of them, and during the pandemic so-called letterbox blooms have really taken off.
In our round-up of the best ones, Bloom & Wild’s bright bouquets (£40, Bloom & Wild) were crowned the best buy, with our tester praising the brand on its arranging guide, the longevity of the blooms and the fact two packets of flower food are included. “Ours smelled amazing throughout the two weeks it bloomed for, with the peonies blossoming after a couple of days in the vase,” they said.
Alternatively, if your loved one is a fan of the current trend for dried flowers, try Dot and the Dandelion’s flowers in a can (£35, Dot and the Dandelion), which featured in our round-up of the best dried blooms. Ideal for decorating any room in their home, each box contains a generous bunch of flowers and a tin can decorated with a replica vintage label. A gift guaranteed to put a smile on the recipient’s face.
Host a virtual get-together
If your loved one is known for belting out their favourite songs, download Smule so they can channel their inner Mariah from the comfort of their own home.
The singing app allows you to sing a solo or team up for a duet or a group session, and has more than 10 million songs to pick from across a range of genres. It’s a great activity to organise for those who have had enough of quizzes on Zoom.
The app is free to download but you can sign up for an annual VIP subscription, which costs £33 and gives you access to more music, unlimited solos and no adverts. Download it for iOS here and for Android here.
Alternatively, you could organise a slumber party using Tele Party (formerly Netflix Party). Available through chrome browsers, it’s an extension that allows you and your friends to simultaneously watch the same TV show or movie by synchronising playback and adding a group chat function for you to discuss it while you watch.
A feast for the eyes
If your loved one is into food, there are a host of tasty gifts you can arrange to be sent straight to their front door, including a recipe box from Pasta Evangelists (£6.37 for one, Pasta Evangelists).
Featuring in our round-up of the best pasta subscription boxes, the reviewer praised the brand for catering for solo diners and the fact that, where possible, it sources its ingredients directly from Italy. You can choose from a variety of dishes like crab and chilli ravioli with Amalfi lemon butter, wild mushroom and porcini triangoli with truffle butter, and Sardinian lamb ragu. You could even order yourself a set too, and organise a cook-along with the person celebrating.
And, what is a birthday meal really, without a glass of something special to go with it? Wine is often a fail-safe gift option, but instead of heading to the supermarket and picking up any old plonk, we suggest opting for a subscription service like Cuvée’s offering (£55, Cuvée), which featured in our round-up of the best wine gifts. It includes three or six sommelier-curated natural wines delivered once a month.
With no fussing, you can leave the selections to the team and your lucky wine lover will experience a constantly rotating selection of new and exciting natural wines – it could be red, white, fizzy or orange, though it will always be seasonal.
Put together a pamper hamper
Give your loved one the gift of some much-needed TLC by getting everything from skincare must-haves to luxurious loungewear delivered to their door on their birthday.
If the recipient loves nothing more than getting out of bed in the morning only to change into a fresh pair of fancy PJs, we recommend sending them a set of Sleeper pyjamas. This black feather trimmed pair (£245, Sleeper) was awarded best buy in our round-up of the best loungewear and if you want something a bit more colourful, you can also pick them up in lilac (£245, Sleeper). While you can buy them from several retailers, we suggest opting for Net-a-Porter during lockdown, which gives customers the chance to send packages as gifts, complete with a personal message and sleek black packaging that comes tied with a ribbon.
Buying for a beauty buff? Head over to Feel Unique, which also offers a gift wrap service. You can choose to have your products wrapped as individual gifts or together as one big hamper, and depending on the quantity and size of your chosen products, they will either be wrapped in thick black paper or beautifully presented in matte black gift box.
For someone that likes make-up, we suggest gifting them Huda Beauty’s power bullet matte lipstick in anniversary (£22, Feel Unique), a shade that featured in our round-up of the best nude lipsticks.
Alternatively, encourage your loved one to practice self-care by sending them Charlotte Tilbury’s goddess skin clay mask (£38, Feel Unique), which was crowned our top pick in our guide to the best ones. “Luxuriously soft and creamy, this clay mask is a treat to apply. It also smells delightfully spa-like, which adds to the sense that it must be doing something truly wonderful to your skin,” said our reviewer.