In just the past few years, America has seen the rise of a new national holiday. Friendsgiving is the special day when people (usually young, often single, frequently broke) gather together to celebrate the blessings of a “family” they’ve chosen for themselves before dutifully boarding airplanes to observe Thanksgiving with the “real” family. We predict that in the not-too-distant future, schoolchildren will study this holiday with the same curiosity and reverence accorded the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag.
You may scoff at our audacity and call Friendsgiving a millennial fad. However, this holiday is fast becoming just as important a cultural institution as the one that appears pre-printed in your calendar. Like Thanksgiving, this holiday was invented out of sentimental thin air rather than religious tradition and its roots are equally shrouded in mystery. (Did it really come about as a result of TV’s Friends? Is a Twitter hashtag responsible for its ascendance as a widespread movement? Is Bailey’s Irish Cream the Friendsgiving analog to the Thanksgiving turkey?)
These questions will continue to be debated long into the future, likely over many a Friendsgiving table. Studies show that more than half of all 18- to 34-year-olds intend to attend a Friendsgiving celebration in addition to a traditional Thanksgiving with family.
Friendsgiving is still a special time to share your sense of gratitude for the community you’ve built by choice, not by genetics.
It’s easy to understand why. If you celebrate ahead of the officially recognized holiday, Friendsgiving offers a great chance to strengthen your soul in preparation for the often trying ordeal of family gatherings. If you celebrate afterward, it allows you to decompress, restore, and recalibrate your sense of independent adulthood.
Even if your traditional Thanksgiving offers the rare combination of functional family dynamics and decent skills in the kitchen, Friendsgiving is still a special time to share your sense of gratitude for the community you’ve built by choice, not by genetics.
If you’ve never hosted Friendsgiving before, though, it can be hard to disconnect your party preparation from the pressure and obligations that too often accompany a family gathering. So here’s a handy cheat sheet for hosting a Friendsgiving party that guarantees good times, minimal stress, and all the warm fuzzies your heart can hold
Food Is a Secondary Focus
Look, if the point of Thanksgiving were just to eat great food, we’d all go out to a restaurant. The real objective is gratitude. And guess what doesn’t lead to gratitude? Laboring under a sense of obligation as the host. So, as you’re planning your Friendsgiving, don’t hesitate to start with what you really enjoy doing.
If cooking is your wheelhouse, then by all means, sit down and craft a Michelin star-worthy menu. (You might also want to take a stronger hand in which guests are assigned which dishes. You don’t want your chronically late friend in charge of appetizers or your gluten-free friend on stuffing duty.)
But maybe your real skill lies in crafting the experience (staging the food, decorating the table, curating a playlist). Or maybe you’re a magician when it comes to gathering people together and getting them to have fun. Lean into whatever aspect of party-planning you really enjoy and leave the rest to your other friends. And if there should be something nobody wants to take care of? Leave it alone.
Lean Into What You Like (and Forget About What You Don’t)
One of the most tiresome Thanksgiving traditions is how every guest is compelled to kiss the host/chef’s ring. Never mind if he/she hates cooking, or is really bad at it. You’re going to eat what they put out and like it.
The joy of Friendsgiving is that there are no rules when it comes to food. The objective is that everybody brings the foods they love to cook, eat, and share. If that means three kinds of made-from-scratch dressing and takeout spring rolls, so be it.
Now, if you or one of your guests has an uncompromising standard for a certain item on the menu, that’s fine. But then that person has to take charge. If you’ve got a friend who is always finding fault with other people’s turkeys, guess who just got drafted to main-course duty?
But hell, there’s no rule saying you even have to have a turkey. If no one wants to put six hours into roasting a bird, screw it — grill some gorgeous salmon on a cedar plank, make a giant pot of vegetarian chili, or just pick up an order of buffalo wings. Make it your Friendsgiving mantra that no holiday dish is so important that it’s worth stressing out over.
Maintain a No-Obligation Guest List
Normal Thanksgiving brings about as much guilt-fueled guest list action as anyone needs in their life. Your party is known as “Friendsgiving” for a reason. That means no inviting people because you feel bad for them, or because they invited you to their last thing, or because you haven’t had time to hang out with them in a while. If you want them at your party, invite them. If you don’t, don’t. Limit your guest list to the small, manageable, and genuinely friendly.
If you want them at your party, invite them. If you don’t, don’t.
This applies to guests of your guests, as well. While it can be controversial to place limits on your friends’ plus-ones, do it for the big-picture good of your party. If your buddy really needs his latest Tindr match by his side, he can throw his own Friendsgiving celebration.
Make It Easy on Yourself
It’s no small thing being a party host. As tired as you get of hearing your mom complain about how nobody appreciates all the work she puts into getting the family together … well, she’s got a point. So take a note and do things to make Operation Party easier on yourself. Here are a few tips we’ve picked up over the years:
- Send around a Google spreadsheet that lets people sign up for different dishes, prep duties, and other party-associated tasks.
- Remind people to bring their own tools for serving their dish. (If someone else is doing the turkey, they’d better come with their own electric carving knife.)
- Don’t sweat the start time. Is it really that big a deal if the sweet potato casserole gets eaten before the appetizers show up? What matters is that everyone comes hungry and goes home satisfied.
- If you want to limit the alcohol offerings (and the potential for party-pooping shenanigans), offer people who don’t want to cook the option of bringing a bottle of specific spirits for a specialty cocktail you’ll be serving. To make life even easier, mix up a big batch of said cocktail in a pitcher or punch bowl and call it a day.
- Want to make dish duty a breeze? Tell everyone to bring their own plates and cutlery. It’s the best way to ensure that nobody (i.e., you) gets stuck with post-feast cleanup. Plus, it’s better on the environment.
- Stock up on ice, aluminum foil, and stain remover. Trust us on that last one.
- Get everybody to kick in $5-$10 for a cleaning service to tidy up your place the day after. After playing host, you deserve to enjoy a great brunch, a leisurely hike, a day in bed with Netflix — whatever continues the warm fuzzy feels for you.
Grease the Gratitude Wheels
Even if you didn’t grow up religious, the specter of awkward gratitude recitations looms over just about every family Thanksgiving table. For Friendsgiving, there’s an easy way around this: make gratitude a drinking game!
Here’s how: As people show up, have them write down three things they’re thankful for on a notecard and toss them in a hat. At dinner, pass the hat around and have each guest pull a card out. As each person reads the clues out loud, everyone else guesses who wrote the card. If the group guesses who the card belongs to on the first try, the owner of the card drinks. If no one guesses, the owner of the card chooses someone who drinks.
Have a Good Time
Never forget that the whole point of planning a party is that you have fun. Nothing kills the vibe of a party faster than a stressed-out host. The better time you’re having, the better time your guests will have.