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Celebrations held in quarantine


About twenty cars with balloons and signs drove down Byron Street in between Kellogg Avenue and Embarcadero Road honking their horns on April 9, all for one fifth-grader Sam Miller’s birthday. 

The novel state-mandated Shelter-in-place has put a hold on and cancelled many annual events and celebrations, however, many Palo Altans are finding alternatives for the ways they normally celebrate special occasions.

The Miller family in Palo Alto came up with the idea of a drive-by birthday party for their son.

“We thought it would be super fun to surprise him,” junior Alli Miller said. “She really wanted him to feel special and celebrated on his birthday even though it wasn’t possible to do something in person.”

Alli said the celebration was a unique experience for the family, who normally go out and eat with their extended family and then celebrate at home with friends on typical birthdays.

Despite the change in plans and despite being unable to celebrate in close proximity with family and friends, Sam said his party was as enjoyable as previous birthday celebrations.

“It was really fun to see everyone I knew and it was a big surprise,” he said. “People had a ton of signs with my face on it. They had balloons and everyone was honking.”

Another holiday, the Jewish celebration of Passover, is one that has gone by during the stay-at-home order, leaving many families to improvise celebrations. One of these families being the Spier family, who had a large zoom meeting with family, according to Paly junior Libby Spier.

“During the meeting we had a Seder, and went through the programs each of us had,” Spier said.

According to Spier, their family typically has a celebration with about 20 people that includes family friends from their synagogue. Because there were less people, that also meant less food, and a more miniature celebration than normal, which isn’t how it should normally be, according to Spier.

“It was definitely a smaller celebration this year because it was only the five of us, and therefore was much quieter and not as big of an event,” Spier said. “Jewish holidays are supposed to be spent with people you care about and people[ you love so being alone as a family was sad.”

However, despite the celebration not being what it normally is, there was some consolation found in being able to have at least some sort of celebration rather than none, according to Spier.

“These times are crazy and disappointing, so it was nice to be able to have the Seder and have one thing that was somewhat constant,” Spier said.

Easter also occurred during the Shelter-in-place order, forcing families to have to pivot from their traditional celebration rituals. 

Palo Alto High School History teacher Caitlin Evans said she found an entertaining  substitute for her familiar Easter celebrations.  

“I hid Easter eggs for the week before Easter in the garden of my house,” Evans said. “I’d move them every morning and people walking by would look for them.”

Since Easter, Evans has switched to hiding dinosaurs in her yard, which has attracted numerous neighbors.

“I have a handful of regulars who can’t finish their walks unless they find them all,” Evans said. “This includes a number of older couples who stop every day to look, and I’ve met some neigneighborsI never would have otherwise met, which is really fun.”

Evans said her family normally has a big celebration on Easter with extended family and lots of food. They have a Bonnet parade and create hats and compete for prizes with each other. This year they had to do all of these festivities through the video calling program:

“It was actually really fun,” Evans said. “My cousins from all over the world were there… we all got on wearing crazy hats and explained what we’d created them out of.”

For Evans, a celebration that stretched out beyond her household was paramount to maintain her annual family rituals.

“For me it was important for me to do something with family, just to see their faces and keep the tradition alive,” Evans said. “We’ll all remember it as the Easter we had over the internet.”

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