Birthday parties in the time of COVID quarantine look a little different than previous years. People are celebrating from a safe social distance by throwing digital Zoom parties or having a parade of vehicles drive by with friendly faces shouting well-wishes. One year of just dinner at home on your special day is no big deal, but I feel especially sorry for folks who are celebrating milestone bdays in 2020.
Recently, my best friend’s sister Jenni turned the big 4-0. Her mom decided to decorate her porch and asked me, the DIY decor devotee, if I had any ideas. She also shared a “40 Years Ago, Back in 1980” poster that detailed all the things that happened during the year of her birth. “I can do that on a chalkboard!” I exclaimed.
So I did.
It was a hit, and I didn’t even have to leave my house. Win/win. I call my chalkboard birthday card a “Year You Were Born Board”. It’s a heartfelt way to make anyone feel special on their birthday, sans shopping. Here’s how you can make one too.
- Large chalkboard (learn how to make your own here)
- Colored chalk or liquid chalk markers
- Erasing supplies: a cup of water and a rag
Search the year they were born and the first thing that should come up is the Wikipedia page dedicated to that year. Scroll through the months, browsing the year’s events and jotting down any that seem interesting. Make sure it’s appropriate of course. For instance, with my birth year 1984, I sure wouldn’t mention this gem from the wiki page: “Crack cocaine, a smokeable form of the drug, is first introduced into Los Angeles and soon spreads across the United States in what becomes known as the crack epidemic.”
This research has most likely already been done for you. Search the year of birth with “birthday poster” on Amazon and you’ll find that someone has already gathered fun facts. Another good resource is the Census website, which rounds up the decade’s pop culture.
Decide what information you want to include on your birthday board. Of course, you want to consider who it’s for. For example, I did not include any sports championship winners on Jenni’s board because I know she doesn’t care who played in the 1980 World Series. However, I did include John Lennon’s death (even though it’s a bummer) because I know she’s a huge fan of the Beatles. Other categories you can incorporate include:
- TV shows
- Historic or newsworthy events
- Famous firsts
- Famous people who share the same birth year or day
- Who the president was
- What the population of the world was
- Average income
- The average cost of a new house, car, gallon of gas, loaf of bread, milk, etc.
Make a Rough Draft
Once you’ve decided what to include on your birthday board, group the relevant information together by category and decide how you’ll arrange it on the board. Outline your rough draft on a piece of paper.
I didn’t block or plot it out on the board itself, which is evident in how large everything is at the top and how tiny it gets at the bottom. To avoid this mistake, you may want to grab some masking tape and tape off sections as a guideline so you know how much room you have to use. Or, you could use a yardstick to chalk a handy erasable straight edge. Just be sure to leave plenty of space at the top for the “## years ago, back in 19##” header.
Chalk It Up
I am genetically blessed with good handwriting and I also practice hand lettering. If you are not confident about your lettering abilities, try this faux calligraphy style. If you know your handwriting is terrible, you may want to consider stenciling. Here is a good tutorial on how to write on a chalkboard.
Illustrate as much as possible. PacMan and the Rubix cube came out in 1980, so instead of writing that, I drew them. I’m not very good at drawing, but I did my best by copying what I found online. Look up logos and try to draw them, too. The CNN logo in the top right corner represents that CNN launched that year, commencing the 24-hour news cycle. I also searched for the movie and TV show titles and tried to match the fonts and colors that were used.
One of the best things about this gift is you can give it digitally by simply sending or posting a photo of it. I showed it off in a video that I posted to my Instagram stories, reading each part aloud and tagging the birthday girl.
If you like this idea but would actually like to give it to the person, you can of course. Otherwise, you could apply the same concept to a shippable card, poster, or mug.