Happy Friendsgiving

The hottest holiday trend celebrated by Millennials actually dates back further than you think


So, no one told you life was gonna be this way. Your job’s a joke. You’re broke. Your love life’s DOA. It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear.

It’s no wonder you, and so many like-minded Millennials, don’t want to go home for Thanksgiving. A roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings is tough to turn down, but you can’t really stomach being subjected to heaping portions of small talk, with second and third servings of probing personal questions you aren’t in the mood to answer.

We’ve all been there. Which is why a growing trend of Millennials plan not to be there this year. Instead of spending Thanksgiving with family, they are opting for a Friendsgiving.

According to a survey released last week by our friends at YPulse, 20% of 13-to-33-year-olds intended to celebrate not with family but with a gathering of friends. That’s not as many Millennials as plan to spend Turkey Day watching football (45%) or taking a nap (42%). But there are an increasing number of people participating in what YPulse calls a “new holiday” that has spread like spilled gravy across “college campuses and urban friend groups alike.”

Now, I’m not one to quibble with statistics. But in this case – and in the spirit of the brand of family disharmony Friendsgiving exists to avoid – I will disagree.

Friendsgiving is not new. Nor was it born, as suggested by virtually all Friendsgiving origin stories I was able to find online, from an episode of “Friends.”

Most Millennials missed the show during its original run, which began when Rachel ran out on Barry the dentist 21 years ago this fall. They’ve discovered it in recent years, either through ubiquitous reruns on multiple cable channels or by bingeing on it once it became available on Netflix. And, surely, the Friendsgiving tradition has been reinvigorated because of it.

That I’ll give you. But friends – the non-capitalized, non-syndicated version – have always been at the foundation of Thanksgiving, right there with the other “f” words (family, football, food). I know this because friends have always been at the core my own favorite Thanksgiving traditions.

Take Thanksgiving mornings. For much of my 20s and early 30s, I would spend the first few hours of my favorite holiday playing football with friends (the very same tradition the friends in “Friends” waxed nostalgic about in their first Thanksgiving episode). We’d meet shortly after 8 a.m. – rain, snow or shine – at some local schoolyard or ballfield, many of us traveling home the night before so that we’d be on time for the annual choosing of sides.

Our Thanksgiving football games meant more to us than Auburn-Alabama. For three hours, without breaks, we’d play tackle, without pads. This was our time together – for many of us, the only time we’d share all year. I remember so many great plays and great laughs from more than a decade’s worth of those Thanksgiving games, and yet I can’t recall a single final score.

Inevitably, we’d be done by noon. Not because we were be expected to be home with our families, prepping for the forthcoming feast, but because we had to be in front of a radio tuned in to the traditional Thanksgiving airing of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant.” Some people think of it only as some hippie anti-Vietnam War protest song. I hear the story of a Thanksgiving – spent not with family but with friends Alice and her husband Ray and Fasha the dog, eating a series of Thanksgiving dinners that couldn’t be beat.

To this day, my kids know that Thanksgiving really begins at High Noon. Not because that’s when the Thanksgiving Day Parade culminates with Santa’s arrival (the very moment at which it is no longer egregiously early to play Christmas music). Rather, it’s when we gather to listen to the story of the 27 8×10 glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us.

There’s no mention of family in the 18-plus minutes of “Alice’s Restaurant;” only friends. That might be the earliest pop culture suggestion of an unbranded Friendsgiving, but it’s not the most popular. That distinction belongs to the kids we all spent many a Thanksgiving with: the Peanuts gang. What fuels the dramatic plot twists in “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”? Charlie Brown invites friends to join him for a Thanksgiving feast before his family has to leave for family dinner with his grandmother. Sure, Peppermint Patty gives ol’ Chuck an earful when he serves his guests a non-traditional menu. But isn’t that really the moment Friendsgiving was born?

Come to think of it, can’t all Thanksgiving lore be traced back to what was essentially a gathering a friends old and new? Is that what Linus exactly was talking about?

I will concede that “Friends” had its share of cultural impacts. It spawned more than a few hairstyle trends, it glamorized shared public consumption of coffee, and I’ve not yet stopped dreaming that one day I might be trapped during a blackout in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre.

But to credit “Friends” for Friendsgiving is to ignore a longstanding history of established precedent.

We wish all of our friends and partners and colleagues the happiest of Thanksgivings, however you choose to spend it.

David Seigerman’s latest book, Take Your Eye Off The Ball 2.0 (Triumph Books)
will be released this fall. Follow him at @dseigs18.

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