I’m not from New York, but then again, not many people who live in New York are really from New York. People here come from all over the world — different states, different countries, different places — and while it’s great to experience living in such a diverse and multicultural city, it does present some practical challenges when it comes to traveling home.
These challenges exist not only for immigrants living in New York who need to take a flight to visit family, but also for many Americans who need to take a flight (or drive for several hours) to make the journey home. However, in spite of the challenges, there are certain times of the year when people want to be at home with their families and Thanksgiving is a prime example of this. Unfortunately, with the holiday being so close to Christmas, it doesn’t always make practical sense for Americans to go home to celebrate. Nevertheless, many New Yorkers still crave that cozy feeling of holiday warmth when Thanksgiving rolls around in November of each year.
So, how to recreate that warm and comforting feeling when you can’t travel home to spend time with your family? New Yorkers have a solution — and it’s called Friendsgiving.
‘Friendsgiving’ is a term I’d never heard before moving to New York, but the concept is simple enough: take the Thanksgiving experience and do a mini version here in New York with your friends instead of your family. The set-up is simple — gather a crowd of three or four friends (or more) and get them all together in a designated host’s house where you eat, drink and watch T.V.
Being an Irish immigrant, I’ve never had a Thanksgiving before, which also means I’ve never had a Friendsgiving before, but I’m excited for my first experience. In imitation of New Yorkers across the city, a few of my fellow Irish expats and I are planning to get together on Thursday November 23rd for Friendsgiving (and with Thursday and Friday being public holidays, we’re glad to have the excuse to indulge ourselves on our days off).
What do you cook?
A traditional Thanksgiving dinner is much the same as a traditional Christmas dinner, featuring a main course of turkey, stuffing and potatoes followed by whipped cream and apple pie. As delicious as this sounds, making a dinner like this is a lot of work and many New Yorkers don’t have the time, patience or (depending on your apartment size) the oven size needed to put in the effort to make a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
To make things a little easier for everyone, at Friendsgiving people host a potluck style dinner instead. A potluck is an event or party where each guest contributes a dish of some kind — anything from Mac n’ Cheese to casserole to cake. As you can imagine, at Friendsgiving this means there is always a lot of food on offer, and no guest ever goes hungry.
I haven’t decided what I’ll be bringing to potluck this year because (lucky me) my apartment does not have an oven. However, if one of my friends is willing to let me spend an afternoon with their oven, I’d be more than happy to whip up some brownies…
What do you do?
Other than eating yourself into a stupor, at Friendsgiving there is also a general sharing of alcohol around party members, and of course, there’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This parade takes place every Thanksgiving in New York and (according to Wikipedia) it’s the largest parade in the world.
Many people (especially those with young families and children) get up bright and early on Thanksgiving morning to go and watch the parade in midtown Manhattan. However, because going to the parade (which runs from Central Park to Sixth Avenue) is the equivalent of going to Times Square on New Year’s Eve, for those of us more interested in immersing themselves in the Friendsgiving experience, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade can be a little more effort sometimes than it’s worth.
Fortunately, every year the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is also broadcast live on television, which allows everyone at Friendsgiving to enjoy the parade and its many famous floats from the comfort of their (or their friend’s) home. This is what me and my friends will be doing — and I suspect so will many others as well.
What other kinds of things do people do?
My experience of Thanksgiving is limited, but from conversations with my American friends and colleagues, I’ve learned that while everyone’s Thanksgiving is connected by several overarching themes (turkey, stuffing and wine), everyone also their own unique traditions that make the holiday special. Whether it’s going to an American football game, attending a high school reunion or just sitting by the fire and staying cozy and warm, everyone finds a way to make the Thanksgiving experience their own.