Once upon a time, family members, including extended and immediate family, lived reasonably close to one another. It was expected that everyone would gather together at the matriarch’s home on every major holiday, including Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas brunches, Easter dinners, Passover Seders, and Fourth of July barbecues. However, times have changed, and families are more spread out across the country. People are less willing to travel to their childhood homes on what has become the biggest traveling weekend of the year. This was replete with crowded airports and train stations; missed or delayed flights; lost or misplaced luggage; and exposure to germs from proximity to strangers. Thus, Friendsgiving was born.
Friendsgiving first appeared in the dictionary in 2007, so it is a fairly recent phenomenon. Although the term was not used at the time, the idea may stem from a 1994 episode of the TV show "Friends" in which each character, unwilling or able to return home on Thanksgiving, gather together for a meal to observe the occasion. Many people actually prefer to celebrate Friendsgiving because it comes without the tensions or expectations often present at family gatherings. Whatever your reasons for staying local, if you are inviting people over to your home, read on for some tips on how to host the best Friendsgiving.
Start by making your home seem warmer and more inviting than usual. Nowadays, retailers sell various holiday décor, and the internet is filled with do-it-your-self decorating ideas. So, gather some Thanksgiving décor—think a cornucopia for the table or wreath of acorns, pine cones, and autumn leaves for your front door—and add some festive touches. Wind some cranberry-and-popcorn strands around a stair rail or some indoor plants. The day after your Friendsgiving, you can drape them from tree branches so outdoor critters can enjoy them as well. For an additional welcome, add a themed doormat at your home’s entrance.
Don’t forget about the guest bathroom. Help guests feel relaxed with a lit scented candle or two, as well as a basket of hand towels on the counter with a nearby receptacle for used towels. (A little reading material never hurts, either!) If you have a dedicated room for everyone to leave their coats and bags in, remember to add some decorations there as well.
While the host usually provides the turkey and nonalcoholic beverages, it’s up to the guests to supply the remainder of the meal. Take into account any dietary restrictions or food allergies. You may eat turkey, but it takes very little effort for your vegan friend to bring a dish they know they can eat or to offer crudités to your lactose-intolerant friend instead of cheese and crackers. Have your guests sign up in advance as to what dishes and/or beverages they want to bring. That way, you won't end up with four green bean casseroles but not a single dessert pie. Start your gathering with appetizers and mulled cider. Letting your friends spike their own drinks will accommodate both those who choose not to imbibe and those who wish to indulge just a bit.
Even this part of the gathering takes some coordination. Based on table size, the number of people, and the amount of counter or sideboard space, determine whether you want to pass dishes around family style or set up a buffet line. You’ll also need to ensure you have enough place settings for everyone, taking into account additional pieces needed for dessert. One thing that many people seem to forget about is serveware. Your friends may be bringing their own dishes, but that doesn’t mean they’ll remember the serving forks or spoons, not to mention pie servers. It may be worth investing in a few serving pieces you can tuck away in a storage bin and just bring them out when needed at larger get-togethers.
Before sending your friends home, allow some time for everyone to recover from their Friendsgiving meal-induced food comas. While a few hardy guests might be up for a rowdy game of touch football, others might prefer something on the gentler side, such as a walk. Odds are you have a couple of spare comfy hoodies to share with any friends who forgot their own. Being outdoors gives everyone a chance to get some fresh air and develop an appetite for dessert if you haven't served it yet.
Be sure to build in time for some additional conversation or even some board games. While many board or card games can be complicated to play, plenty of others are easy to learn, even for novice players, and can accommodate as many as 10 to 12 participants. (Plus, the need for sitting around the dining room table to play will encourage everyone to pitch in and get clean-up done more quickly.) If your friends are more inclined to sitting around a fire pit drinking hot cocoa and chit-chatting, make sure you have some fleece throws handy, so they can stay warm.
When it’s time to leave, send your friends off with a package of shared leftovers so each person gets a little bit of everything—and don’t forget to save some for yourself! When you sit down to enjoy them the next day, you’ll be grateful once again for the friendships you share with one another.