What makes a special occasion, well, special?

Usually, it means fishing out that stellar-yet-blistering pair of shoes you wear about twice a year, a bold red lip, and reservations to your favorite restaurant, bar, or event. Celebrating special occasions takes the shape of going out into the world, whether it be traveling somewhere new or simply skipping into a mutual friend’s backyard. But now that many of those options are either closed or limited due to the pandemic, we have to resort to celebrating these occasions virtually. So does this mean that we have to redefine how we celebrate, or what it means to do so? How can we meaningfully celebrate without our normal ritual of gathering outside the home?

Zoom celebrations bring out our inner Tom Cruise.

The good news is, not only can we hold as engaging and memorable of a party as we would pre-quarantine, but actually, in some respects, virtual events can bring us even closer together than we once thought. Something we’ve observed in our virtual full-sensory tastings is what we like to call “The Risky Business Effect:” like young Tom Cruise’s sock glide and subsequent dance when home alone in the film Risky Business, we’ve witnessed our event attendees unwind over the course of the tasting and, ultimately, get pretty silly. Jokes are cracked, dance moves are unveiled, you get the picture— everyone’s shaking out their shoulders, sliding around a proverbial hardwood floor in their proverbial socks, and enjoying one another’s virtual company. In the comfort of our own homes, we feel less pressure to hold up the spotless image of ourselves that we want others to see, which lets us form new, silly, enduring memories with each other.  

Plus, after weeks of not seeing our pals, togetherness feels all the more special. You know the feeling: that burst of energy when the image of your friend’s face pops up on your phone during a video call and you’re overwhelmed with excitement because it’s been a while since you’ve spoken, but everything picks back up right where it left off. You’d think we would’ve all forgotten how to socialize by now (and, to be completely honest, I did forget a little), but I’ve been able to learn so much about myself, my friends, and my family in the past seven months, even when I haven’t been able to hold those deep conversations in person.

We’ve become more open about ourselves, our spaces, and the people in our lives; we’re all going through this together, and our ability to deeply empathize with one another brings us to new levels of intimacy within our friendships. So when we finally are able to celebrate an occasion together— be it a birthday party, an anniversary, a graduation, or even a “We’re Doing Great, So We’re Treating Ourselves” event— it’s both meaningful and personal, even if it’s virtual.  

That being said, if I had to decide between a Zoom call and a night out with my friends, I think we both know what I’d choose. Of course we’d rather have a big ol’ party to celebrate a special occasion. But as we head into winter with social distancing seeming far from over, virtual experiences are the next best thing— at least, for the moment. And who knows? It’s possible that virtual experiences will stick around in a post-COVID future. Virtual celebrations are accessible, affordable, and allow us to make new memories with our long-distance pals. My friend might hate me for hosting a Zoom event at a perfectly reasonable hour of 6pm EST (when, for her, it’s actually 3pm and not exactly party time yet), but at least we can celebrate together in some capacity. 

Yes, I’m calling into this Zoom event from my bed. Yes, I’m wearing my pajamas (don’t tell Kala). And yes, I did just snort at that joke. So trust me when I say we’re not judging! Celebrating isn’t just about looking fancy for the possibly slightly overpriced rooftop bar in Flatiron that you reserved for your friend’s birthday— it’s about letting loose and spending time with the people you love, even if you can’t see them in person. 

Because home (and the party) is where the heart is.

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