Friendsgiving: How to Make it Work
Written by Peggy Tull, B.A., intern
Despite how holidays are presented (constant fun, warmth, and remembering what’s “really important”), they can also be stressful and incredibly lonely for some folks, whether you’re isolated because of distance or conflict, or whether the people you’re with just don’t make you feel welcome. For members of the LGBTQ+ community, holiday time spent with family can be particularly stressful. Issues of physical and emotional safety, misgendering, the ability to bring one’s partner, and other microaggressions can make you dread the holidays, or avoid them altogether.
Whether you spend the holidays with family or on your own, there are definitely ways to spend time with your chosen family to alleviate holiday season loneliness and make the time more special. One of the recently popular options for this is Friendsgiving: Thanksgiving with your close friends rather than biological family. Friendsgiving can be more flexible than a traditional Thanksgiving, and you can create your own new traditions based on what feels right to you.
So, what are some ways to have a fantastic Friendsgiving? I talked to friends, coworkers, and acquaintances who have either hosted or attended Friendsgivings before to see what their recommendations were.
Scheduling the event can be one of the more difficult things to do. If you’re trying to plan for the first time, start with your closer friends and reach out individually to let them know you’re thinking about hosting a Friendsgiving. Ask folks when they’re available and see if there’s a time that would work well for everyone (before you make the Facebook event!). Find out whether your Friendsgiving will be a supplemental celebration or the main holiday event for friends. You can be as flexible with the date as you want, going into December or January if that’s what works best for your group!
Considering who to invite is also important. Do you want this to be a group of friends who all get along, or your most important people who may not all know each other? There may be some people for whom this will be their only Thanksgiving celebration of the year, or who haven’t had one before. Like any party, you should consider who knows each other and the dynamics of the group, as well as how to make sure people are comfortable and respected. Centering your Friendsgiving around something besides just dinner could help with any awkwardness, so think about putting on a classic movie, planning it around a TV event, organizing an arts and crafts project, or using some other group activity that’s easy to organize and to participate in.
If you’re working with a traditional Thanksgiving layout, turkey and all, keep in mind that you’ll need an oven big enough to fit a turkey. Additionally, preparing a turkey can be tough and takes a lot of time. If you haven’t ever made a turkey before but still want to try, here’s a comprehensive guide to get you started. If you’re not the best cook, making sure you generally have easy recipes for Friendsgiving is a must, regardless of whether you’re hosting or just attending.
It’s also important to note that a lot of people may not be able to eat the traditional Thanksgiving dishes due to allergies, dietary restrictions, or just because they’re sick of turkey. Making sure to account for people’s diets can turn an average Friendsgiving into a fantastic one. If you or your guests have a dietary restriction and you want to host a Friendsgiving, talk to whoever you’re inviting to see if they are comfortable using recipes that everyone in the party can eat, and definitely make sure that there’s some balance to the dishes. There are lots of recipes out there for vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal, gluten-free, and other dietary restrictions, so don’t be afraid to try! If you’re attending a Friendsgiving and you have a dietary restriction, don’t be afraid to let your friends know about it, and make sure you bring something delicious for yourself just in case!
Generally, you want to make sure there’s plenty of communication. Several people I talked to recommended using Google Sheets to mark attendants, what their dietary needs were, what they were bringing, and how much of each dish the host wanted (“We only need 2 pumpkin pies, y’all!”). This also helps the host see how much food is coming so they don’t over-prepare. This could also be a great opportunity to make sure people know everyone’s names and pronouns, if you are inviting people who may not know each other as well. I wouldn’t recommend playing icebreaker games, but creating a warm and friendly atmosphere through fall decorations, a great playlist, or even a group message thread where you all send each other pumpkin memes could encourage more conversation and community.
Of course, whatever kind of Friendsgiving you put on should be tailored to what works best for you and your chosen family, not what you think is traditional or necessary for it to be official. So go ahead and start planning your one-of-a-kind Friendsgiving!
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