Friendsgiving has become my favorite way to celebrate the holiday as a young mom

I hosted my first Friendsgiving in 2012. My then-boyfriend and I had moved from New York City to Los Angeles earlier that year, and we couldn’t afford to go home for the holiday. I knew I had other friends in the same boat, so I figured, why not invite everyone over to our place? I love to cook, and I love cooking for a crowd even more. Thanksgiving had always been a predominantly family-oriented holiday for me, but I was willing to expand my notions of the gathering.

Once I moved out of my parents’ house in my mid-twenties, my idea of family and holidays changed. Working in retail, I often had a shift the day before Thanksgiving, so I’d become accustomed to spending much of Turkey Day in bed anyway, exhausted from work.

In Los Angeles, my friends became more like family than my actual family.

Friendsgiving no longer seemed like such a foreign concept. I have always kind of been the “mom” of my social circle, making sure that everyone is taken care of, and I didn’t want any of my friends to spend Thanksgiving alone either. It’s practically impossible to find a turkey smaller than eleven pounds, so it wasn’t as if I wouldn’t have enough food for a big dinner. Plus, we had just gotten a kitchen table that sat, like, eight people. We didn’t need all of that food and all of that space just for the two of us. I imagined filling every seat at the table. I relished the idea of hosting a real, live, grownup dinner. Watching all of those Food Network shows was about to pay off.

Our first Friendsgiving was a huge success. Three friends joined us, as well as my boyfriend’s mom and sister. There was never a quiet moment, no one was ever uncomfortable, and there were plenty of leftovers for people to take home. I was immensely proud of myself for essentially pulling it off on my own. For the next few days, all of our guests reached out to let me know they’d had a great Thanksgiving. Two of my friends actually ended up becoming friends with each other because of that Friendsgiving.

Honestly, nothing gives me more pleasure than saying that I introduced people to new friends—and food is really good for doing that (one of the reasons why Thanksgiving is such a perfect holiday for friends).

After the success of my first Friendsgiving, I immediately wanted to host again the following year. I had my son about two months before the next Thanksgiving, so I was slightly worried that it would be harder to pull off with an infant at home—but I made it work! It was a wonderful day, and my little turkey got to spend his first Thanksgiving with some of my dearest friends. Life was about to drastically change for us both, so I’m grateful we got to have that memory.

The next Thanksgiving, I was back in New York with my parents, a newly single mother with a young toddler. We spent the day with family, and while that was nice, I missed the ease of spending it with my friends. Conversation with friends never felt forced or awkward like it did with family members I hadn’t seen in years. And there weren’t any other kids around, so my poor little boy spent the entire time feeling bored and trying to find any trouble he could get into around the house.

So, when my best friend suggested to do another Friendsgiving dinner the next year, I jumped at the idea. We had quite a feast, with all of us preparing our best dishes. The best part was that all of our kids were able to play together and keep each other occupied while we talked and ate. (I don’t think the kids ate more than a few bites, but they all slept really well that night). Our dinner conversation was about anything and everything: movies, music, politics, and parenting. We never ran out of things to talk about—and luckily, we never ran out of food or wine either.

Let me be clear: It’s not that I don’t enjoy spending the holiday with my family—they’ve often even been included in my Friendsgiving plans. I just find the day more joyous when friends are involved. With my friends, I know that I don’t have to watch what I say or wear.

If I host dinner, no one cares that I’m still wearing my sweatpants because I’ve been in the kitchen cooking up a storm. I don’t have to remember to pack a bag of toys for my kid so he’s not bored or uncomfortable. My friends are really my people, and Thanksgiving is the best holiday to spend with them. It’s about giving thanks for the folks who really make your life better. And as much as I love my family, my friends are the ones who lift me up and feed my soul. So I’ll happily feed their bellies.

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