By Alyce Gilligan
November 22, 2011
There’s a decent chance you don’t live near your parents—whether you’ve moved away from home because of school, work or just because you hate the weather. The distance, though, can be especially tricky around the holidays. For those with limited funds and/or vacation time, Thanksgiving travel often takes a backseat to going home for Christmas. That means a holiday traditionally celebrated with family could be a very lonely affair. But, never fear, this year discover the joy of a “Friendsgiving”—a Thanksgiving with friends. Here are some tips and hints to host your own party that will make it OK—and maybe even better than heading home for the holiday:
(Still homeward bound to be with family? Maybe try a few of these tips anyway to liven up your traditions.)
Make friends at Friendsgiving. Don’t just invite your closest pals—you know, the ones who might as well be family. Why not use the holiday to get to know some coworkers, a new person at church or an acquaintance you’ve heard doesn’t have any plans? Open up a Facebook invite and pull out the leaves for the dining room table. What seems awkward or unusual could end up being something both of you are thankful for.
Plan to potluck. One of the drawbacks to not going home for Thanksgiving is having to pay for everything yourself. So share the load: You make the turkey and your guests bring everything else. Plus, it gives everyone a chance to bring something that matches their own traditions. You’ll end up with someone’s grandma’s stuffing, someone else’s mom’s casserole and your own aunt’s famous turkey rub recipe.
Embrace games. You’re with friends—so act like it. Make cheese-tastic Thanksgiving games like “pin the tail on the turkey” or cut pilgrim hats out of construction paper to wear during dinner. Or just have a giant Settlers of Catan marathon. Either way, hang out with your friends and enjoy having an entire day (instead of just an evening) to do so.
Create meaningful moments. It is called Thanksgiving, after all. It might sound awkward and weird, but, chances are everyone’s feeling a little sentimental about being away from their family. So talk about what you’re thankful for during appetizers or dessert. Maybe even have everyone share a favorite Scripture or Thanksgiving memory. You’ll be surprised how much better you get to know your best friends.
Break some traditions. Is there a part of your family tradition you haven’t always been a big fan of? Maybe you don’t like dressing up for dinner—tell your friends to come in feast-friendly sweatpants. Perhaps there are classic side dishes nobody favors—so switch up the menu with an original casserole or out-of-season dessert. Not a fan of Black Friday lines? Stay up late and sleep in later instead. (EDITOR'S NOTE: If you are going out for Black Friday madness, here are a few tips to spend your money wisely and conscientiously.)
Trade TV time for quality time. From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and football games to The National Dog Show, Thanksgiving is a stacked day for television. But resist the urge to just spend the day swapping places on the sofas. Pick one must-not-miss program, and fill the rest of the afternoon with more meaningful activities. If the weather allows for it, bundle up with scarves and hot cider and take a walk to a nearby park. Maybe play your own football game in the backyard rather than watching them all afternoon. (By the way, if you are watching a lot of TV for Friendsgiving, it better be a marathon of all of the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends. It’s only right.)
Give a little Thanksgiving. Instead of storing all of the leftovers in Tupperware right away to send back with your friends, put together a basket and find someone who could really use it. Go as a group and seek out a homeless community, a family in need or a shelter that can put your food to better use.
Share your friends with your family. You might not get to be with your relatives and loved ones the day of Thanksgiving, but you can still share this special time with them. Have the most camera-capable party attendee bring a tripod and take a group photo of your Friendsgiving crew. Turn the photos into cards that all of you can send to your families, as a sort of “Wish you were here!” memento to thank them for the holidays you have gotten to spend together and share your experience.
Ring in the Christmas season. If you’ve held out thus far on listening to holiday music and sneaking in festive films, let down your guard at midnight. Poll the party on favorite Christmas movies and pick one to watch at midnight. You’ll always remember the year you closed out Thanksgiving and brought in the Christmas celebrations with dear friends.