A few years ago, our parish young adult group began an annual tradition for this time of year: we got together to celebrate “Friendsgiving” — and now it’s a thing. A very good thing.
Over the years, Friendsgiving has taken place at dining room tables set with porcelain china and at card tables on paper plates. We’ve gone back for seconds and thirds of our favorite dishes. We’ve played card games and board games and party games.
So much life happens between each celebration. There are proposals and weddings and babies, break-ups and funerals and losses of all kinds. New friends come, old friends move away. Each year so much changes, but this simple gathering remains — we gather as friends to give thanks.
Friendsgiving is a surprisingly easy holiday to host. All you need is a table. Scratch that — all you need are places to sit. If you’re facing Thanksgiving and wondering how to make the most of the day, text your friends and see who’s in. Your dining room doesn’t need to look like a Norman Rockwell painting. You don’t even need a dining room! It’s the relationships that matter, so sitting around a coffee table with paper plates on your lap is just as meaningful.
Over the years I’ve gathered a few tricks for fuss-free entertaining that take make saying “yes” to hosting Friendsgiving as quick and easy as opening the front door.
Say yes to offers for help
When friends offer to bring something, say yes! Though it’s a holiday focused around a meal, the food can come together collectively. Share the load and go potluck-style. There’s no shame in relying on friends to contribute — hospitality is about welcoming people, not about creating a spa-like experience.
For one dinner with friends not long ago, I was particularly short on time. I pulled out a container of chicken tortellini soup from our deep freezer and heated it up on the stove while I tossed together a simple salad. Someone brought bread and another friend brought dessert. Others brought wine and appetizers. Many hands make light work, every single time. Our beautiful and delicious spread wasn’t a burden to any one of us because we all had a hand in pulling it together.
Snacks help carry the load
Gather a few basic snack items that guests can dive into as the main dishes come together. Salted cashews, popcorn, and tortilla chips and salsa are easy and budget-friendly. Freezer staples like tater-tots can become “gourmet” with a sprinkle of cheese, bacon, and green onion. Apply the same technique and naan can become a fancy flatbread in no time.
If you have a day or two to prepare, make a big batch of cookie dough, roll it into balls and freeze on a sheet of wax paper. Once the balls are frozen solid, put them in a large freezer bag to store. When Thanksgiving day rolls around, pull them out to thaw and you’ll have warm, homemade cookies on the coffee table in a matter of minutes.
Takeout is always an option
Is it still Thanksgiving if there’s no turkey? Of course it is! When all else fails, just order a couple of pizzas and crack open a few bottles of wine. The whole point is taking advantage of the day to gather with others who have a stake in your life, to share a moment of rest together, and to give thanks for your friendship. Who said that has to include turkey?
And you don’t have to have a living space that looks like a Pottery Barn ad. When it comes to hosting, I promise no one will remember that basket of laundry in the corner of your living room or the dog hair tumbleweeds along the baseboards. What they’ll remember is how they felt — welcomed, seen, wanted. Nothing else matters.
Paper plates are perfectly acceptable
Friendsgiving doesn’t have to mean hours of dish duty and cleaning after everyone leaves. Look for disposable plates, silverware, cups, and napkins that are simple and sustainable. It’s an investment in resources that will give you more time and energy to focus on your friends. Using paper plates is not about lowering your standards — it’s about prioritizing what’s important. Don’t let a perfect ideal (a complete set of china and stemware) get in the way of something that’s good (sharing stories and laughing together).
The practice of hospitality accomplishes something powerful in us. It asks us to give up the charade of who we think we should be, to stop trying so hard to perform and reach for some kind of ideal state of being. True hospitality requires that we take a risk to let people see our sticky floors and less-than-perfect selves. Inviting people into our homes and our lives with our insecurities and dusty baseboards is a way to trust that cultivating meaningful friendships matters.
And that’s what Friendsgiving is all about, right?