Take it from a guy who once spent Thanksgiving alone in the desolate wastes of Tulsa, Oklahoma: You don’t want to spent Turkey Day counting the minutes until the sun mercifully sets on your loneliness. No matter how forbidding the weather back home, this is one Thursday in November that doesn’t go well with binge-watching BoJack Horseman.
On the other hand, Thanksgiving is also one of those holidays that runs a substantial risk of breaking out in recycled familial squabbles. It’s like Americans have agreed to get together with their families once a year just to make sure all the wedges that divide them are still firmly in place. (Just kidding, Mom!)
This is where Friendsgiving comes in. Friendsgiving has all the benefits of Thanksgiving — a warm circle of people you love, outrageous quantities of food, a ready-made excuse to blow off your other responsibilities — without the hassle of travel or the obstacle course of political and social landmines that is your family life.
What is Friendsgiving? In a nutshell, it’s a holiday potluck, loosely designated for those who find themselves far from family or otherwise without a home base on Thanksgiving. It also gets considerable play among those who need to work off (or drink away) the angst inspired by their family Thanksgiving. Friendsgiving is great for college students, travelers, wanderers, orphans, the recently paroled, freelance (aka unemployed) writers, and other nomadic or cash-strapped types. How does it differ from Thanksgiving? It doesn’t really. But who can say no to a lackluster portmanteau?
Perhaps the best part of Friendsgiving is the subtle discomfort that it inspires among pundits and journalists of a certain age, whose stories are always tinged with a mixture of apprehension and condescension — as if to say, “Ah. Look at these young people doing their young people things.” As though gathering one’s friends to steep in holiday cheer under one roof is somehow unique to the generation born after 8-track and before MP3.
My favorite recent contribution to the art of musing about Friendsgiving comes from humor columnist Chris Erskine of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote:
The origin of Friendsgiving is unclear, but some trace it to the sitcom ‘Friends,’ which millennials mistook for a documentary. They liked the show because the cast members hardly ever worked and eventually all slept with each other. From this, we now have Tinder.
Then there’s this gem from a survey conducted by the makers of Mrs. Smith’s Original Flaky Crust Pie:
Friendships are so important to millennials that 64 percent of them say spending time with good friends is their favorite thing about Friendsgiving — in fact, more than half prefer Friendsgiving to Thanksgiving with their families.
Really? Friendships are so important to millennials that they enjoy spending time with their friends? It’s a good thing you hired a polling agency to tell you that one, poindexter.
Now that we know why Friendsgiving is important — it’s the “friends” part — here are some ideas for making sure your Friendsgiving is totally fly.
Friendsgiving-Turned-Board-Game-Extravaganza Is the Way to Go
If you celebrate Friendsgiving, you’re already participating in the arch-sacrament of hipsterdom — at least that’s what I learned from all these news articles. You might as well carry the millennial stereotype to its furthest possible extent. Break out some complicated board games to pair with your cranberry sauce and bottom-shelf whiskey. I’m looking at you Agricola.
Turn It Into an Iron Chef-Style Showdown
I recently lost such a competition against my roommate and culinary arch-nemesis. Nevertheless, I can say that the experience was thoroughly enjoyable and bred more camaraderie than righteous indignation. The key here is to match the competitors’ culinary skills and to set aside enough time to rotate chefs — nobody wants to compete all day. It’s probably best to forget about the turkey if you take me up on this one.
Also works with cocktails.
Everyone Who Doesn’t Bring a Dish Owes the Host $20
I admit that this one isn’t likely to endear you to your friends, but it gives people an out if they’re not up to cooking. Ideally, most of your friends will do their duty and bring something to the potluck. The only danger here is in accidentally inviting all your lazy friends and ending up with $80 but no food. If that happens, see “Turn it Into an ‘Iron-Chef’-Style Showdown,” above. With Seamless.
Try Out Some Sophisticated Baking
Apple strudel. Danish coffee cake. Nut roll. Nothing’s more satisfying than successfully rolling out homemade pastry dough. Baking is a great way to feel like an adult while capitulating to your deeply held desire to eat sweets all day. Plus, your newfound baking skills will wow your friends.
If you’re looking for a recipe, I’m not going to help. You know how to use Google. At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, I recommend buying an actual cookbook, like they sported at the first Friendsgiving. The Joy of Cooking is loaded with great advice on baking, and — bonus! — 700 pages of other recipes, too. If you don’t have a general kitchen reference yet, now’s the time.