The holiday season is one of the most joyful times of the year. Everyone you love comes together to celebrate, give each other gifts, reflect on the past year and enjoy some good food. The weather turns cold, and falling leaves are replaced with falling snow. If there are any kids in your life, watching their excitement can be the most fun of all.
But the holiday season can also be a source of stress. Things like Thanksgiving dinner usually mean getting together with extended family. While some people get along beautifully with all their aunts, uncles and cousins, this isn’t always the case. Family gatherings of this nature can sometimes be more of a headache than they are anything else.
That’s why there are events like Friendsgiving. In case you haven’t heard of this new trend, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a group of friends throwing their own Thanksgiving party. This is a fun way to share a holiday that’s ordinarily reserved for the family with your friends, and also an excellent way to kick off the holiday season.
If you’ve never heard of this before, that’s because it’s still relatively new. It really took off in 2014, and in 2015, people created more than 75,000 Facebook events labeled “Friendsgiving,” according to CNN. It was a tradition created by young people, primarily college students and recent graduates who often couldn’t afford to travel home for the holidays, or who otherwise couldn’t afford extravagant holiday plans.
In most cases, this doesn’t replace a traditional family Thanksgiving. Most people enjoy a Friendsgiving, then go on to celebrate again with their families. For many people, though, this event feels more lighthearted, more relaxed and more jovial than a traditional Thanksgiving.
If you’ve never thrown a Friendsgiving before, there’s no need to stress about it. It isn’t hard, and just takes a little bit of planning and coordination. The very idea of Friendsgiving is that this shouldn’t be a stressful, complicated event. It should just be you and your friends celebrating your thankfulness for each other.
To help you throw the best Friendsgiving you can, we’ve put together a list of some tips. Feel free to follow them, or to go totally off the reservation and do your own thing. Hopefully, though, these will give you a starting point to work with.
Set a Date
No matter how you choose to vary your Friendsgiving or what else you want to mix up, you’ll still have to decide on a date. It’s best to do this right away. This is mostly because it lets everyone put the event on their calendars far in advance. But it’s also because this process might take longer than you think. It can be tough to work around everyone’s work schedules and find a day that works for everyone. The more people you’re working with, the more challenging this gets.
Set A Date Early
Our best advice is to plan, plan, plan. If you wait until November to set a date, chances are people’s calendars will already have started to fill up. Set a date in October, or even September if you’re feeling ambitious.
As for which date you should pick, there isn’t a right answer. It’s most common to hold a Friendsgiving before the official holiday itself. This way, you can celebrate with your friends before everyone begins traveling for the holidays or returns home to their families. But this isn’t set in stone. You can certainly hold your Friendsgiving after the official holiday if this works better for your friends.
The best way to decide on a date is to ask all your friends what days they’re NOT available. Ideally, there will be a few days left over that would work for everyone, and you’ll be able to pick from those.
If you’re having a difficult time finding an evening that works for everyone, consider making your Friendsgiving dinner a Friendsgiving brunch. This might require you to switch up the menu a little bit, but it may work better for different schedules.
Decide Who’s Hosting
Depending on what situation you and your friends find yourself in, hosting might be an easy decision. Maybe you have one friend who’s a natural host or hostess and will gladly volunteer to hold the event at their place. However, if no one is volunteering, there are a few criteria you could use to decide who ought to host.
It might just come down to space. If you all live in small city apartments, it might just be best to go with the person who has the most space, or the biggest dining room table.
Of course, the whole point of the event is to celebrate with your friends and have fun. You can do this whether you’re all sitting around a huge table that perfectly fits you all, or if you’re all sitting cross-legged on the floor with a dinner plate on your lap because there aren’t enough seats. At Friendsgiving, it isn’t about how much you have, or how fancy anything is. It’s just about togetherness and appreciating each other.
Let’s face it: Some people are just better at hosting than others. Some people are naturally disorganized, while others are more detail-oriented. If one of your friends is always forgetting they have to be somewhere, is always late and is constantly forgetting they left food in the oven, maybe this person isn’t the best choice to be hosting Friendsgiving.
You might also elect a Friendsgiving host based on where their apartment or house is located. Whether you and your friends are spread across the country, across a state or just across a single city, odds are one of you is more centrally located than the others. It makes the most sense for you all to congregate at that person’s place.
Send Some Invitations
Once you’ve got a time, date and location nailed down, it’s time to put together some invitations. Even if you and your friends have talked through your Friendsgiving plans, people are forgetful, and we all have busy lives. The plans you just made will probably slip someone’s mind. It’s best to send invitations so everyone has that extra reminder.
Besides, this can be a fun excuse to use those cute Thanksgiving-themed greeting cards you bought. You can also make your own. Or if crafting isn’t your thing, even a blank card with the details of your event will do.
Snail mail isn’t the only way to go, either. You can create a Facebook event and invite your friends to it. You can also send an Evite or email, if that’s more your style.
However you choose to do it, make sure everyone has sufficient reminders of the fun event you’re planning.
Plan a Menu
Since the food is the heart of your Friendsgiving, it’s important to spend a fair amount of time planning this part of your event. We have two suggestions for how you can plan and divide up a menu. Of course, you’re always welcome to throw our ideas out the window and do your own thing. What’s important is finding a way that works for you and your friends.
- Planned Menu
With this idea, you’ll decide your menu ahead of time. Maybe this means you brainstorm ideas for food on your own, enlist the help of one or two other friends or maybe the whole group is involved.
Next, share this list with your friends in person or via instant message, text chain or Facebook event.
From there, let everybody claim a dish. Once someone claims a dish, cross it off the list. Ideally, you’ll have as many food items as you have guests attending. That way, everybody can bring one dish. If you don’t have a lot of guests, consider asking everybody to bring two dishes.
The advantage of this method is that you won’t end up with three people bringing pumpkin pies or five people bringing mashed potatoes. There should only be one of every dish at your party. This makes for greater food variety and less competing between friends to decide whose pie was better.
- True Potluck
With this method, every guest decides for themselves what to bring. There is no pre-planned menu. Instead, every guest brainstorms their own ideas and makes dishes to share.
There are a lot of advantages to this idea. It allows greater variety and creativity. It lets your guests share their family recipes or personal favorites that might never have made it onto a preplanned menu. Together, you can enjoy these exciting new recipes.
It also lets everyone play to their strengths. With a pre-planned menu, the odds are good that someone will get left to make something they are not familiar with making or don’t enjoy. By letting everyone pick their own dishes, everyone gets to make the thing they’re best at and the thing they enjoy the most.
If you do decide to use this method, however, it might be wise to have everyone share what they plan to bring. By taking this precaution, you’ll ensure that you don’t end up with three variations of the same dish.
Some Traditional Favorites
In case you’re deciding to go with the pre-planned menu, or even if you want to provide some gentle suggestions to your guests about what foods would be appropriate to bring, here are a few of the foods that we consider must-haves at any Friendsgiving celebration.
This one is a no-brainer. Thanksgiving is practically synonymous with turkey. Without this, your Friendsgiving is just another party. Having said that, it’s a good idea to poll your friends to see if any of them want to request a vegan or vegetarian option for their main course. There might be so much other food that this isn’t necessary, but it’s still a good idea to ask.
Logistically, the turkey is the host’s responsibility. There’s just no good way around this one. It’s impractical to transport a fully cooked turkey from someone else’s place. It just makes the most sense to have the host take care of this one. Because of this, though, it might be a good idea to say that the turkey is the host’s only responsibility. All the other food will be up to the guests, since the host is shouldering this large responsibility.
Even though we said the host should only be in charge of the turkey, this is part of the package. The host should also contribute the gravy, since they’re already cooking the bird. The other option is to use a gravy mix, in which case a guest could bring this. Either way, gravy is an essential part of your dinner.
This comes in all varieties, made with all kinds of ingredients. However you prefer your stuffing, make sure someone is bringing this. You might even ask this person to arrive a little early so the stuffing can cook inside the turkey for a little while to give it that extra flavor.
These come in all shapes and sizes, and all are delicious and equally appropriate for Thanksgiving. These can be mashed, boiled, scalloped, served in a creamy casserole or however else you like them. They can be sweet potatoes, or they might be russet. They’re so versatile that you can probably even get away with two guests bringing different varieties of them, and no one will even notice.
- Cranberry Sauce
This one often divides a crowd. Some people love it, and some hate it. Either way, it’s a Thanksgiving classic. Poll your friends to see how they feel about this one, and decide whether or not to include it.
- Dinner Rolls
Dinner rolls and butter are an essential for any Friendsgiving feast. Make them yourself if you’re feeling ambitious, or buy them at the store or bakery.
Serve winter or summer squash plain or in a casserole. If you’re using winter squash, keep in mind that the dish might taste quite similar to any sweet potato dish you might also have on the menu.
- Green Beans
These can be served plain, or you can make one of those yummy casseroles with crunchy fried onions on top. Feel free to substitute a different vegetable if you’re just searching for a plain vegetable and green beans aren’t your favorite.
- Creamed Corn Casserole
Corn can also be served plain. For Thanksgiving, however, it’s usually baked in one of those yummy creamed casseroles. Do note, however, that no matter how many veggie casseroles you end up serving, it’s a good idea to make sure there’s at least one plain vegetable option.
There are some Thanksgiving staples here such as pumpkin and apple pie. But you have lots of other options, too. What about a pumpkin cheesecake or a pumpkin trifle? Does an apple crisp or a pecan pie sound tasty? Usually, Thanksgiving desserts are fruit-based, and the most common flavors are ones like apple, pumpkin or cranberry. But the options here are endless. Bring whatever desserts you like. It’s a party, after all.
- Hors D’Oeuvres
Appetizers can be anything you like. Pick a light finger food to give guests something to snack on while the turkey finishes roasting.
Provide Plenty of Drinks
One of the surest ways to make sure everyone has a great time at your Friendsgiving is to provide plenty of alcohol. Ask your friends what their favorite drinks are, and make sure there’s something for everybody.
A good way to do this is to ask everyone to bring at least one bottle of something they like. That way there will be enough to go around, and everyone is sure to have something they like.
One fun activity is to create a signature drink for your event. Make it something that fits the fall theme, and give it a catchy name that’s an inside joke only you and your friends will understand.
Don’t forget to also supply soda or punch and water and ice for those who would prefer not to drink. You may even want to discuss this before the event to ensure guests have a way home. Ride share services, taxis, carpooling with a designated driver or public transportation are all great ideas to keep guests safe on the ride home.
Don’t Let Everyone Use the Host’s Oven
Expecting the host to cook isn’t fair, since they’ll most likely be using their oven for the turkey. Guests should make their own food at home and bring it in plastic containers, or serving bowls covered in tinfoil. If everyone shows up with nothing but their raw ingredients, expecting to use the host’s oven, you won’t eat until midnight.
If one guest doesn’t have access to an oven or a large enough oven, consider assigning them something that doesn’t need to be baked. They can always buy dinner rolls or prepare a fresh veggie. Crockpots are a great way to cook, transport and keep food warm once you get to the host’s house. Encourage guests to utilize these space savers for their dish!
Make a Great Playlist
Nothing improves a party like a great soundtrack. You might turn the tunes off when dinner is served, but they’ll be great to have on in the background while everyone is mingling and snacking before the turkey is done roasting.
Do you have one friend with impeccable taste in music? Assign them the task of creating a playlist. If none of your friends are very musically inclined, there’s no need to worry. Music services like Spotify have pre-made playlists just for such occasions. You can usually expect to be able to choose from upbeat party music, smooth jazz, mellow acoustic and everything in between.
You might especially want to create a fun playlist for after your party when the cleanup begins. This will help keep everyone from falling into a turkey coma and keep them awake enough to help clean up.
Pick a Fun Game
This is a good idea for either before or after your dinner. It can help ease everyone into a fun mood before the dinner, or it can be an absolute riot after dinner after everyone’s had a few drinks.
The types of games you can play will likely be limited by the number of people you have and by the number of kids that might be present. For these types of situations, we like games that can be played by large groups of people and that mostly involve talking and interactivity. This way everyone gets to play, and no one has to move very much, since everyone will be stuffed with turkey.
Whatever you and your friends’ favorite game is, make sure to have someone bring it to your Friendsgiving.
Don’t Forget to Clean Up
Cleaning up after such a big dinner is going to be a bit of a project. Like all projects, however, it will go faster and be much easier if you have more people helping. Your host or hostess has already done a tremendous amount of work by preparing their home and roasting the turkey. Make sure you don’t leave them to clean up after everyone, too.
If you’re extra-prepared, you might assign everyone a task ahead of time. Create a chore list and have everyone choose one. Make sure the dishwashing crew is at least two people, if not more. Someone can clear the table, another can pack leftovers into Tupperware containers, another can clean up any food off the floor and so on. If everyone pitches in to help, the job won’t last long, and you can soon move on to more fun activities.
Lastly, this is the single most important part of your Friendsgiving celebration. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you ate. It doesn’t matter if you ate it off fine china or off the few matching dishes you could scrape together. It doesn’t matter if you all fit at a long dining room table, or if you were sitting on folding chairs and the floor and you had to take turns using the chairs.
What’s most important about Friendsgiving is the spirit of it. Your friends are the family you chose, and that’s why it’s important to celebrate with them and let each other know how thankful you are for each other.
This event shouldn’t feel like a chore or an added source of stress. It should be a fun time to get together with each other and share fond memories, laugh at old stories, catch up with one another and enjoy a delicious potluck meal.
So relax, have fun and be thankful for each other.
If you don’t have a large enough group of friends to cover all the dishes here, don’t stress. Or even if you have plenty of friends, but no one loves to cook, there’s still hope for your Friendsgiving. Why not give catering a try?
At Giordano’s, we offer a wide catering menu where you’ll be sure to find something for all your friends. We offer salads, sandwich trays, various starters and of course, our signature deep-dish pizza. We’ll bring the food to you, or, if no one’s apartment is big enough for the whole group, you can come to us. Search our locations to find the one closest to you, and be sure to browse our catering menu to find the perfect food for your perfect Friendsgiving.