Friendsgiving: When Friends Become Your Family

“Friends are the family you choose.” — Jess C. Scott

Sandra’s Friendsgiving story is one several of us can relate to: She was far from home, and getting back to her family for Thanksgiving was not feasible. She decided to have her own gathering with people she was close to and wanted to be with. That was the first of many Friendsgivings for Sandra and her friends. One year, they simplified and got Chinese takeout together and spent the night playing video games. Friendsgiving was officially introduced into the Urban Dictionary in 2009, and has rapidly grown in popularity as an alternative to a family-centered Thanksgiving gathering. Some celebrate it by getting together with friends in addition to spending actual Thanksgiving with family, while others gather just with friends. Whichever route you choose to go, adding friends to your Thanksgiving season will addd spice to your holiday!

There are several reasons why Friendsgiving could be on your radar. Maybe you live far from your family. Traveling around Thanksgiving is a nightmare–fraught with expensive airfare and delayed travel times. Not to mention that you are not sleeping in your own bed and that you get to deal with that one crazy aunt of yours. Or maybe you have family drama and Thanksgiving is historically an extremely tense gathering. Or maybe, for a myriad of reasons, you are not connected to your family members. In all of these cases, Friendsgiving is a fantastic alternative for ways to spend your Thanksgiving season. 

I love the following quote by Jess C Scott: “Friends are the family you choose.”  Regardless of whatever life situation in which you may find yourself–physically distant, emotionally estranged, or completely disconnected from your family–you do not need to celebrate Thanksgiving all on your own. A 2017 survey found 32 percent of women were more afraid of loneliness than cancer. No one wants to be alone ever, but especially during the holiday season. This is one of several reasons why the holidays can be so discouraging…but it does not have to be! In the absence of a traditional family, I say that finding and connecting with your own community is a must

Friendsgiving is all about togetherness…the whole point of the holiday is to gather with people you care about, nourish the community, and celebrate bounty. Here’s how I would suggest you get started planning your Friendsgiving this year: 

  1. Look to your friends and neighbors–the people you work or interact with frequently. If you think this Thanksgiving might not involve your family, consider who you would like to spend the holiday with. Maybe it is coworkers, neighbors, or friends. It may even be a small gathering, and that is okay!
  2. Suggest Friendsgiving, or plan it outright! Talk with the people you are comfortable with about the possibility of doing Friendsgiving. Measure their interest. You will quickly learn who is interested and available, and you will likely be surprised how many other people do not have specific plans or traditions for the Thanksgiving holiday. Many people end up being around for Thanksgiving even though it is assumed everyone goes home for Thanksgiving. You may be surprised how many people are alone like you! 
  3. Plan the thing!  If your friends hang out and talk frequently, you will likely know what each friend’s skills or preferences are when it comes to baking/cooking/decorating, etc. You can volunteer for whatever dish you feel comfortable with or have an aptitude for if you want to prepare a meal. Make food assignments and feel free to make the meal as traditional or not traditional as you like! If preparing food yourselves does not sound fun, find a restaurant that’s open and you can dine in or take-out. The food is less important than the gathering itself!
  4. Enjoy yourself. I have found that because Friendsgiving is such a low key, casual event, I end up appreciating the entire thing more than some traditional Thanksgiving meals I have attended with family members. Maybe it is because you are all friends so it is less formal…or the fact that everyone voluntarily chose to be there as friends (no obligations and hopefully minimal drama)… Whatever the reason, it makes the gathering very enjoyable. Soak it in!
  5. Plan C. And D.  There are some who do not have anyone close to them with whom to plan or even attend a Friendsgiving. I see you. Sometimes life is hard. I do have some suggestions for people who find themselves in this type of situation. First, look to your online community. Social media has made it fairly easy to find people online or through apps. Arrange for a meet-up, connect virtually, or even attend a zoom Thanksgiving gathering. If all of that fails, I suggest volunteering at a local homeless shelter, or other non-profits. You will connect with people in service and that is always a good way to boost your spirits and socialize. Plus you will see those with even less than you–which will also boost your morale and spark some of that seasonal gratitude. You will have done something that you feel good about and you can also meet other like-minded people that may potentially become your friends in the future.

The stress of Thanksgiving can evaporate as you are eating, hanging out, chatting, dancing and listening to music with the people that you choose as your family. Look around–you may be surprised to find that several of your neighbors and/or friends may not have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving and would be thrilled to be a part of a Friendsgiving.  If you do attend or host a Friendsgiving, I sincerely hope it fills your cup. I hope you are able to talk about things that matter, to connect on meaningful levels, and to find satisfaction in these meaningful relationships with the people you have chosen as your family. 

Happy Friends- and Thanksgiving, dear readers!

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.


1 Comment

  1. Cathy Liggett


    Lovely article!! I did a lot of that (and Christmas too) in my 30’s. Lots of wonderful memories & adventures. It also works well for empty nesters.

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Melissa Cluff, MS, LMFT, CSAT

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.