Your Guide To Friendsgiving

Ditch the fam and host your friends instead. 

For many of us, spending the holidays with families are hard. Whether we’re separated by distance, lifestyles, or beliefs, bridging the gap between our independent lives as adults and our roles around our parents and siblings can seem like a daunting task. In any given family gathering, there’s bound to be heated political debate, pressure to share personal information, and/or a level of awkwardness that makes us feel like a stranger in a strange land. That’s why Friendsgiving exists. This year, consider leaving your family to their own holiday drama and kicking back with your besties instead. Here are the essential elements of a successful Friendsgiving.

Oh, You Turkey

Yes, you have to have a turkey, unless you’ve somehow limited the guest list to vegetarians and vegans. If cooking is not your strong suit, plenty of grocery stores, from high-end to low-end, offer fully-cooked turkey and even complete dinner options with sides that you can pick up or have delivered ahead of time. Then, on the day of the festivities, all you have to do is heat it all up, serve it, and decide whether or not to take the credit for the tasty feast. As the turkey-maker, remember that you are also responsible for the gravy.

Remember the Vegans

Just because a big bird is the main event of your Friendsgiving meal doesn’t mean you can ignore your herbivore friends altogether. Make sure you have plenty of vegetarian and/or vegan-friendly sides so that everyone has enough food to gorge on.

We’re All in This Together

You can’t do it all alone. Nor should you try to. If your friends are open to suggestion, and you’re organized enough, it’s best to assign everyone a food, lest you find yourself with 12 bottles of wine and no appetizers. The basic Friendsgiving food categories are: stuffing, potatoes, buns or rolls, vegetables (in casserole, salad, and/or steamed form), cranberry sauce, and desserts. If you know food allergies are an issue for any of your guests, let everyone know to keep their contribution gluten-or dairy-free, too, so everyone can partake in the bounty. Finally, remind your friends (who will hopefully still be your friends after all these group-text reminders) that they should bring their food fully prepared and ready to serve. That last thing you want is someone showing up and making a mess like the Swedish Chef in your already chaotic kitchen.

Your Little Secret

If you insist on providing the lion’s share of the food yourself, there are some places you can skimp. Canned cranberry sauce is totally fine (it’s almost kind of cool to serve it, unashamed, in all its can-ridged glory). Gravy can come from a packet or jar. Dessert is another area you can outsource. If you nail the apps and entrees, your guests will be near satiation by the time dessert rolls around. No one has to know your pie wasn’t homemade if you slice and plate it out of your guests’ eyesight. Provide plenty of whipped cream and/or ice cream and no one will detect the store-bought flavor.

What’s That Smell?

If you’re cooking in a small space, there are some foods you might want to avoid, lest you be reminded of your Friendsgiving menu for days after the event. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, fish, and even bacon can leave unpleasant odors in the air. Go easy on the garlic and onions, too. During your cooking marathon, keep the vent fan on (if you have one) and/or open a window.

Bottom’s Up

Of course you want to have plenty of liquor on hand. Because this is the most expensive part of Friendsgiving, absolutely ask everyone to bring something to drink. No shame! What you should provide: still and sparkling water, coffee, tea, and a couple of non-alcoholic beverage options like natural soda or catawba juice. Set up a self-serve beverage station with ice, cups, and bottle openers so you don’t spend the entire gathering preparing drinks and shuttling them to and fro.

Set the Table

Always set your table first before you do anything else; this way, if your guests arrive early, it will look as though you’ve been calmly anticipating their arrival all day. Table-setting is an art, and while it isn’t easy, you can and should copy from the plethora of tablescape experts on Instagram. You must use real plates, cutlery, and glassware. If you don’t have enough, check out a thrift store and assemble a bohemian collection of tableware. Don’t forget that you’ll need serving bowls and platters, too.

What you don’t need to purchase is a bunch of random knick-knacks for a stunning centerpiece. Nature offers free, interesting tidbits that will add an elegant touch to your table and can be disposed of easily after the festivities. Whatever your centerpiece ends up being, make sure it doesn’t obscure anyone’s view and leave enough space for the food.

Seat Yourself

Standing is all well and good in a bar setting, but when you’re entertaining guests at home, people will want to sit down at some point. If you don’t have a dining room table big enough for everyone, that’s fine; just make sure there’s somewhere to sit that isn’t the floor. Recruit your friends to bring folding chairs if they are able. Alternately, if you can’t wrangle seating for your whole group, amass some cushions, spread out a blanket, and make it an indoor picnic experience.

Give Thanks

The whole point of Friendsgiving is to give thanks. Make sure that before the meal, you take time to acknowledge what you’re grateful for, whether that’s by saying grace or taking turns sharing about the people/experiences/things that make your life wonderful. Maybe you’ll collectively come up with your own way to creatively express your gratitude and establish a new tradition that will endure for many Friendsgivings to come.

Have a Plan B

Have a few open-on-Thanksgiving dives in mind just in case your best laid plans fail. If Thanksgiving starts to feel overwhelming – you burn the turkey, your friends flake on their potluck contributions, the dog destroys your spread – feel free to abandon the homemade dinner and go out with your friends instead. The point of Friendsgiving is to spend time together, after all; eating Chinese take-out on the floor with your friends while watching a movie is still a better holiday than spending it in the middle of a family feud.