Fall is in full swing and the big holiday season is finally here. This means it’s that time of year when families and friends come together to enjoy a nice feast and reflect on all that they are thankful for. However, this can be a difficult and/or stressful time for a lot of people. Not all families are the same. Some people may not have good relationships with certain family members or any at all. Others are long distances away from each other and can’t gather in one place. Or maybe there is something else that makes a traditional Thanksgiving celebration out of the picture. When this is the case, try creating an event that is less traditional and more about fun. Get together with anyone that you are close to personally or in proximity and host a Friendsgiving. 

Friendsgiving is a modern celebration that takes place around the same time as the Thanksgiving holiday and involves friends gathering to share a meal, express gratitude for each other, and celebrate the bond they have. The beauty of Friendsgiving is that it can be less formal than a traditional Thanksgiving dinner but still organized to feel like a special event. If this idea sounds appealing to you but you have never hosted an event before, here are some helpful Friendsgiving tips as, and towards the end of the article, theme ideas for you to create a new annual celebration with your chosen family. 

Many of these tips come from chef, blogger, and business professional Jazzmine Woodard from her recipe blog “Dash of Jazz.” Woodard is a Houston-bred, Nigerian-American woman who has over 20 years of experience in home cooking and sharing recipes

Memorable Friendsgiving Ideas

Potluck Style Feast: Assign dishes to your friends so everyone contributes to a part of the meal. It’s a great way to sample various recipes and share culinary talents.

Themed Friendsgiving: Choose a theme for the event — whether it’s a specific cuisine (Mexican, Italian, etc.), a particular era (Roaring Twenties, ’80s, etc.), or even a costume party where guests dress as their favorite Tyler Perry characters.

Creative Decor: Go beyond traditional Thanksgiving decor. You can opt for DIY crafts like making a gratitude tree where everyone adds leaves with what they’re thankful for, or create a photo booth area with props for fun snapshots.

Games and Activities: Plan activities to keep everyone entertained. From board games to outdoor sports (if weather permits). A fun trivia game about Thanksgiving-related topics or group-specific topics like each other’s memories and personalities is also a fun, low-stakes idea. Of course, you can always whip out a deck of cards for easy fun.

Signature Cocktails or Mocktails: Create a special drink for the occasion. You can have a signature cocktail/mocktail station where guests can mix their drinks. Have everyone or certain people contribute to supplying anything needed for the drinks. 

Give Back: Incorporate an element of giving back by organizing a donation drive, preparing care packages for a local shelter, or doing a charitable activity together.

Friendsgiving Toast: Take a moment for everyone to express gratitude or share a favorite memory or reason why they appreciate each person present. Or take the time to express any difficulties/triumphs around this holiday season to create a safe space for those who need one. 

DIY Craft Station: Set up a crafting area where guests can make personalized mementos or create something together, like a gratitude jar filled with encouraging notes.

Outdoor Bonfire or Movie Night: If weather and space allow, gather around a bonfire for cozy conversations or set up an outdoor movie screening with blankets and popcorn. Indoor options like a fireplace or TV for movie night work as well. 

Friendship Time Capsule: Have everyone bring an item or write a letter that represents their current life, seal them in a box, and agree to open it together at the next Friendsgiving.

Remember, the essence of Friendsgiving is celebrating friendship and gratitude. It doesn’t have to be a big event or a catered affair. Instead, make sure to focus on enjoying each other’s company and creating even more lasting memories.

Use Google Sheets for Dish Signup

This first tip comes from Woodard and is essential for laying the foundation of the event. Friendsgiving is about taking the pressure off of this holiday. That means every friend can contribute a dish so all of the cooking is distributed and not your sole responsibility. Doing this successfully means planning ahead of time so everyone knows how much to bring and what is already being brought. Woodard’s tip is to create a collaborative Google Spreadsheet that allows multiple people to edit it at the same time. Doing so allows you to create categories for food like main dishes and side dishes, and assign a dish to whoever is coming. 

Outsource Ingredients When it Easier

Tip number two also comes from Woodard and again speaks to the casual nature of Friendsgiving. Thanksgiving takes days and sometimes weeks of preparation when serving dishes from scratch. Do not stress over this for your Friendsgiving. Of course, you want the event to be special, but you can always outsource some of your dishes if that saves time and makes preparation easier for you as the host. This is especially helpful if you also find yourself hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Set Start and End Times in Advance

The next tip for the most successful Friendsgiving is to set a start and end time for the event in advance. This may seem obvious but it is crucial to follow. Everyone knows (or is) that person who will show up late or stay overtime, so plan accordingly. Also, a typical 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. dinner may not work for your group, so decide ahead of time when it is most convenient for everyone to gather. 

Free-up Kitchen Space and Have Room in the Fridge

Having each guest bring a dish can take up a lot of space. Woodard suggests making plenty of room in the fridge for cold dishes and leftovers in advance. Additionally, she advises freeing up the dishwasher and making sure the sink is clear. These tips plus clearing enough table space for all the food will make navigating your space easier for everyone, especially you. Also, when it comes to cleaning, do not be afraid to ask for help.

Have Games Ready

The last tip for Friendsgiving planning is to have any games or activities decided on and what time they will begin. It is not necessary to follow this timeframe to a tee, but it helps leave time for everything you all plan to do. Some games or activities can take place during the meal while others can be saved for before or after. Discuss this with your guests and schedule everything based on what works best for you all. 

Lead into these ideas by specifying how each group should make the event their own.

Again, what makes Friendsgiving so special is that it can be whatever works best for your group. There are no requirements to plan an event like this. However, here are some more Friendsgiving ideas for those who want a little more help with the planning.