Friendsgiving. The term is self-explanatory, a portmanteau, and a delightfully uncool way of conveying the idea.
There’s nothing complicated about this relatively new tradition, rapidly growing in popularity among college students and single city-dwellers alike. You gather with a bunch of your friends, colleagues and classmates, and you have Thanksgiving together. Everyone stuffs into a friend’s apartment with contributions of food, drinks and disposable dinnerware, and they enjoy one another’s Thanksgiving cooking, usually in the form of recipes passed down from generations before us. In a few more days, everyone will be driving or flying home to their parents, aunts, uncles and opinionated cousins to celebrate the holiday in the traditional sense. However, Friendsgiving is a chance to have all the fun without any of the pressure.
Some of my fondest memories over the past few years have been Friendsgiving evenings, surrounded by people I’m thankful to have in my life. These are the friends you made in your dorm room freshman year, grew close to over difficult classes and job interviews, and those whom you have put in the effort to stay in touch with as time goes by far faster than for which life prepared you. So much of the need for Friendsgiving comes from the fracturing of American families, due to factors like economic pressure, having to travel to attend college, and the need to find jobs that pay our bills each month, often far from where we grew up. This reality is why having a laid back evening with those our age feels so comfortable. We are with the families we have made ourselves, through a complex web of connections and shared stories.
Doing your part for a Friendsgiving is easier than it may sound. Sure, when you drive home, you’re never expected to bring with you a prepared dish of homemade stuffing or hand-crafted giblet gravy. Most can rely upon our parents to do all of that hard work for us. Fortunately, when you attend a Friendsgiving party you’re only expected to bring one or two items, dishes you’re good at and feel proud to share with others. Maybe you’re a terrible cook and can’t be trusted to un-can a tin of cranberry sauce, let alone roast a spiral-cut ham. Don’t fret, as there are roles for you as well, since every dinner party requires essential dinnerware, equipment, and most importantly, warm Thanksgiving-appropriate drinks. The hosts will greet you kindly if you can help out with an additional table, chairs, or disposable plates and flatware. But the hosts will hug you as their best friends if you bring a warm mulled cider, bottle of good wine or a case of assorted seasonal craft beer.
What if you’re the host of one of these beautiful get-togethers? Sure it can feel like much pressure, even without your distant relatives bringing up election predictions or your generation’s many shortcomings. Let me put your mind at ease since the most you will be expected to provide is the turkey itself, which is a shockingly easy centerpiece to prepare. No need to break out the deep fryer or become a chef overnight on Youtube, since turkey is a wonderfully forgiving entrée for the inexperienced cook. Just do your best and don’t undercook the bird. Your guests will be so happy only to provide the mashed potatoes and dressing that they’ll never even consider second- guessing your generous contribution. Also, most Friendsgivings fall on the weekends, on days when as many friends as possible can be expected to be free and able to attend, so there will likely be football on the television to keep guests preoccupied. Distract them with enough drinks, TV, and good conversation, and you’ll never have to worry about going up against your own group’s Chef Ramsay when it comes to your roast Turkey.
What’s important to remember is that Friendsgiving is a chance to spend time with those you care about every day. It’s an opportunity to gather around good food and better company and express your thanks to those people with whom you’re happy to spend your days. There’s something wonderfully democratic about this tradition, as it’s a true reflection of the life you have built for yourself, whether that’s in college surrounded by others pursuing dreams of their own, or in a new city where you are still writing a chapter of your life. You can cherish the friends you have made along the way, and the least you can do to show them how much you care is serve them a warm plate of turkey and dressing to convey the love you have introduced into one another’s lives.