When Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in 1863 declaring “a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise,” he began an annual tradition of gathering with one’s family to eat a hearty meal and give thanks for all that we appreciate in our lives. However, it’s hard to imagine that Abe would have predicted the rise of a sub-holiday from this proclamation. Yet here we are, in 2019, gathering around a smorgasbord of food with our friends and calling it “Friendsgiving.”
While the history of Thanksgiving has its controversial elements, the rise of Friendsgiving does not. According to Google Trends, the interest in Friendsgiving, at least in terms of how frequently the word was Googled, began somewhere around 2012. Every year since then, the term has gained popularity on the internet and is now a commonly-celebrated event.
Friendsgivings are most frequently hosted by people in their 20s and 30s, according to the Emily Post Institute, and they consist of a large, Thanksgiving-style meal, but may have more variety than what you see at your own family’s Thanksgiving. Essentially, it’s a potluck, and a chance to get together with your friends and be thankful for them, too.
When planning a Friendsgiving, it’s easy to overlook, at first glance, the importance that such an event holds for many. Thanksgiving is known as a time to gather with family and be thankful, but this isn’t exactly how it works for everyone. For those who don’t get along with their families, for those who are not accepted in their own homes, for those who are missing parents or siblings and for those who, for any reason, simply don’t enjoy being home, Friendsgivings have the potential to not only add to Thanksgiving season, but even serve as the main holiday. The importance of this cannot be underscored.
“[A] reason Thanksgiving celebrations have changed may be that families themselves have changed — and nonrelatives have become more likely to take on family-like roles in people’s lives,” an article from The Atlantic explains. Generational differences only add to this tension (Google “Ok Boomer” if you need some examples of this), and a meal with your uncle or grandparents could fall anywhere on the spectrum from unpleasant to traumatic.
There are also plenty of other explanations for the rise of Friendsgivings, though some of them are also related to generational differences. The Millennial generation, for example, tends to get married and have children later than generations prior. So a group of people in their late twenties might not consist of families with young children, but rather a handful of single friends who just want to gather for a meal and a good time. And, as the article from The Atlantic points out, for those who are childless and unmarried, it’s easy to understand that the most important people in their lives may be their friends.
This is not to say that Thanksgiving isn’t, for many, an enjoyable holiday and a time to be thankful for family because it certainly is if that’s where you are in life when November rolls around. But the holiday, love it or hate it, is almost always improved by adding in a Friendsgiving somewhere along the line.