Friendsgiving: 16 tips and tricks to embrace the holiday tradition this season
A Thanksgiving potluck with friends can reduce the cost of the meal. USA TODAY
Growing up, my mom saved the Thanksgiving leftovers and made homemade turkey soup the next day.
We'd invite friends, decorate the table and use my great grandmother's china for a simple yet festive meal together.
It was "Friendsgiving" before social media dubbed it so, and it's a tradition I'm carrying on this year.
Here's a stress-free way I approach Friendsgiving — and how you can, too:
Start with the basics
- A time and place. Will you use your living room or team up with a friend who has more space? If you're in a studio apartment, can you gather in a community room?
- Who you'll invite. Will it be small and intimate or a larger gathering? Friends you know well or friends you're just getting to know? Will it be open to kids or adults only?
- An approach. Will you provide the entire meal or host a potluck? I prefer the latter; it's simpler, less stressful and less expensive. It also sets a welcoming tone when everyone contributes.
- A theme. I use themes to give friends a starting point for what to bring. Our Friendsgiving theme this year is "family favorites:" bring a favorite holiday dish to share. "Pie Night" or "Game Night" will invite different fare.
Invite friends to contribute
- Decide what you'll provide. I like to prepare a main dish I can make ahead, such as soup or casserole, so the kitchen is clean when friends arrive. This year we're baking a ham. (Scandal, I know! But the tradition is about friends, not turkey, right?)
- Don't worry about other food. As the host, I focus on the main dish and others bring the rest. Sometimes I make other dishes, but my rule of thumb is to make food ahead of time so I can focus on my friends that evening.
- Delegate drinks. I'm a fan of the BYOB approach. Others like to make special cocktails or designate someone to bring the wine. I'm hosting so I coordinate.
- Ask for certain dishes. A group text or Facebook invite can help friends see and coordinate dishes. I'm specific: We're looking for appetizers, sides and desserts along a certain theme. Asking friends to share what they'll bring prevents overlap. If there are dietary restrictions, suggest being inclusive.
Prepare for the festivities
- Make a list (or a few). I make a grocery list, a cooking list (when to put what in the oven) and a RSVP list of who's coming with what dish. That way I'm less likely to forget something, more likely to have dinner ready on time and I can make suggestions of what to bring.
- Pull out the nice dishes. This is half the fun for me. A cake stand can elevate the elegance of a cake while a table cloth and serving dishes can make a celebratory meal feel special. I've found the little details can set the stage for a lot of joy.
- Check your inventory. Do you have enough silverware, napkins or serving utensils? Can you borrow serving trays or bowls? What about chairs? If I'm short, I ask a friend to bring what we need. (I've brought over-sized pillows when there wasn't enough chairs before, and we've often held bring-your-own chair events in the backyard.)
- Schedule margin. In my experience, preparations always take longer then I expect, so I create a buffer in my schedule to prevent a last-minute rush. I like to take a few minutes to get ready, center myself and say a prayer of thanks before friends arrive.
Enjoy the evening
- Unload the dishwasher. One of the best tricks I've learned is making way for dirty dishes. It makes clean-up simple. Sometimes a friend even loads the dishwasher without asking. (If you're a friend who does this, thank you!)
- Make introductions. When I've brought together different friends, I invite them into conversations with each other. One way is to offer a uniting topic, such as favorite interests or sports teams. Focusing on similarities instead of differences is a great way to connect.
- Offer leftovers. Paper plates and plastic wrap is an easy way to share the next day's lunch. Others ask friends to bring their own leftover container. Either way, I like sending friends home with a full heart — and full hands.
- Be present. Hosting isn't about showing off or worrying if everything is perfect, it's about welcoming people into my home. I put my phone away and am present with the people I care about. This Friendsgiving, I'll enjoy the moments and the friends I'm thankful for.