How to have the best Friendsgiving ever

A guide to celebrating Thanksgiving with friends

November 26, 2013

With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, many Chicagoans are already preparing to travel home and spend time with their respective families, whether they be tucked away in the suburbs or scattered across the United States.

But for the significant number of college students and transplants who may not be able to afford a plane ticket home this year, or for those who have no family to go to, the holiday most commonly associated with food, football, and family can certainly extend to friends as well. 

As a Texas transplant who has spent many holidays away from home while pursuing a film degree at Columbia College Chicago, I have had the pleasure of attending and hosting many "Friendsgivings" with similarily displaced twenty-somethings.

Some of my fondest memories have taken place around those makeshift holiday tables, as we laughed over the smorgasbord of dishes we had miraculously cooked without the use of a microwave and realized, perhaps for the first time, that adulthood wouldn't be so scary after all. As long as we had each other, we would be alright. 

Friendsgiving has become something of a rite of passage for urban millennials; I know few young city-dwellers who have not attended at least one. And yet, an occasion to give thanks and celebrate with friends (because for many people, their friends are their family) amounts to much more than a passing trend or a buzzword for the fab five generation.

Ready to have the best Friendsgiving ever?

First, some universal ground rules:

Offer to arrive early and help the host.

As soon as the official announcement goes out, ask the host if you can lend a hand with cooking, cleaning, or dessert-frosting before the majority of guests are scheduled to arrive. Hopeless in the kitchen? Help set the table, string lights, or put up decorations instead.

Do not show up empty-handed.

Be a gracious guest. This applies to any party to which one is invited; but the whole point of Friendsgiving is to share what you have with others, so providing at least one token of gratitude is essential. A homemade casserole or a six-pack of locally-brewed beer is always welcome, but thinking outside the box helps too. Arriving with extra napkins, plates, cups, silverware, serving spoons, records, or a perfect playlist could save the day!

Negotiate the potluck beforehand.

When making a Facebook event or sending e-vites, also make sure to coordinate who will be bringing what. Otherwise, you might end up with more PBR than food, or three pumpkin pies and no pecan. Accomodate for guests who are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free, and make sure that all food groups (turkey, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, cornbread, pie, booze) are properly covered. 

Next, a few pro-tips:

Get crafty.

On an inherently creative holiday like Friendsgiving, arts and crafts aren't just reserved for the kids' table. Keep guests entertained with clever crafts they can take home as souveneirs, like hand-painted Plymouth rocks or thankful jars. Look to design blogs like Decoist for direction on festive table-settings and other whimsical decor. 

Drink and be merry.

Without the usual bevy of impressionable young children and strait-laced older relatives to accomodate, the typical Friendsgiving has become an ideal occasion for drinking games, post food coma bar outings, and endless rounds of Cards Against Humanity. If you don't drink, body-warming beverages like virgin egg nog or crisp apple cider will also hit the spot. 

Make new traditions. 

Perhaps the Thanksgiving traditions in your family include waking up early to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, turning the channel to college football, or playing a game of pigskin in your own backyard. The beauty of Friendsgiving is that you can either recreate these memories with your best buds or make some new ones.

Watch the Thanksgiving episodes of "Friends" and "How I Met Your Mother." Run the Turkey Trot together. Bring a new dish (like cheesy hashbrown casserole) or drink (like apple rye punch) to begin a new Friendsgiving staple.

Most importantly, let your friends know how much you care. Loved ones are the reason for the season, after all.

Leah Pickett writes about popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @leahkpickett.