Friends are the family you choose, amiright?
That’s why this year, I decided to celebrate Thanksgiving a little differently.
A few days before the official holiday, my roommates and I hosted our first Friendsgiving. Unlike your typical Turkey Day, Friendsgiving is spent with friends and in potluck-fashion, on or around the fourth Thursday of November.
The tradition’s exact origin is unknown, although pop culture may have planted its seed. Some of the most cherished episodes of the late NBC sitcom “Friends,” are the ones in which the gang celebrates Thanksgiving. What fan can forget when Rachel scored the winning touchdown against the boys in football, or when Joey got his head stuck in a turkey?
In recent years, Friendsgiving has gained popularity among college students and young professionals, who are often too far from home or too broke to travel for the holiday. Corporations have even latched onto it as a marketing tool to access that demographic, according to branding expert Nancy Friedman.
Taco Bell hosted a small group of social media stars at its Irving, Calif. headquarters to celebrate Friendsgiving as part of its “Nothing is better than a friend with #TacoBell” campaign. Betty Crocker, Whole Foods, Butterball, and Nat Geo Wild channel also integrated it into seasonal advertisements, Friedman wrote on her blog Fritnancy.
Since this was my first fall in New York City, it seemed like the perfect time to make the transition from family Thanksgiving in New Hampshire to Friendsgiving in Brooklyn. My two roommates and I managed to fit a party of eight in our New York apartment, a feat of its own.
It was awesome.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. You know what else I love? Holidays sans stress. Turkey and stuffing, hold the drama. Green bean casserole without a side of drunk uncles, bratty cousins fighting over drumsticks, and prying aunts who want to know every detail of your life.
A little less this:
And a little more this:
Here’s how we did it.
We sent a Google Calendar invitation to our friends one month in advance. A week before Friendsgiving, we sent a follow-up email with a proposed menu and food assignments.
This is our apartment. We have a pretty tiny oven, so we outsourced the pie and mashed potato-making to two friends who live nearby.
One of my roommates is a decorating wunderkind — she doesn’t even need Pinterest! As a table centrepiece, she cut the top off the top of a butternut squash and filled with flowers in seasonal colours. I collected leaves from Prospect Park to fold into the paper napkins.
To get guests in the mood for sentimental conversations, one of my roommates wrote this definition on the chalkboard. “Sobremesa” is one of those Spanish words that doesn’t have an English translation.
My other roommate is our personal Iron Chef. She opted to cook cornish hens instead of a turkey so we’d have room in the oven for extra sausage-and-apple stuffing. Each bird fed two people.
I asked that she “make the turkey dance” before stuffing them, like my parents do every Thanksgiving. She puppeteered a hen to the tune of “Gangnam Style.”
She also made hot mulled apple cider with dark rum. We encouraged her to pour in the whole Captain Morgan handle — because unlike at Thanksgiving, you’re encouraged to have a little buzz at Friendsgiving.
We garnished the drinks with cinnamon sticks and served them in Mason jars. C’mon, people, this is Brooklyn.
The traditional Gratitude Game started way before dinner. We left pens and strips of paper on the counter so that guests could anonymously write what they were thankful for. Both sincere and silly responses were encouraged.
Finally, dinner was served. The menu included cornish hens, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry jelly, applesauce, green bean casserole, and cornbread. The best part of using cornish hens instead of turkey was that everyone got a leg and a drumstick.
This was my plate. Challenge accepted.
After we conquered the feast, we passed the Gratitude Jar around the table, drew slips, and read aloud. This was my favourite part of the night because we had a blast figuring out who wrote what.
At Friendsgiving, it’s ok to be truthful about what you’re thankful for. Such as that fantastic streak of hookups you had this year, or this …
We wrapped the evening with pumpkin pie and snuggling on the couch.
Friendsgiving isn’t perfect. There were hiccups. One roommate scratched her eye after slicing an onion and experienced such searing pain, we thought we were going to have to take her to the hospital. We kept realising we forgot to pick up needed ingredients; so by the second unplanned trip to the grocery store, I invested in a six-pack of Woodchucks to preserve our sanity.
But there was no screaming, no awkward interactions with relatives you see twice a year, and no tears (besides the onion incident). Just old jokes rehashed and new memories made between people who love each other.
If you’re going to spend Thanksgiving with your relatives, have a Friendsgiving, too. Celebrate both your families, no matter how weird one is.
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