On that first Thanksgiving episode of “Friends,” which aired 24 freaking years ago (I know!), nobody—not Monica, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, nor Joey—ever utters the phrase Friendsgiving. It’s also easy to forget that none of them really wanted to spend the holiday together. Almost everyone has plans with their families that ultimately fall apart—Ross and Monica’s parents hightail it to Puerto Rico, Rachel misses her flight to Vail, Joey’s family uninvites him after he appears in a V.D. ad that’s plastered all over the city, and Chandler boycotts all “pilgrim holidays” on principal, seeing as Thanksgiving was the day his parents told him as a child they were splitting, mid-pumpkin pie.
Monica tries to whip up a perfect holiday spread as salve for the gang’s familial wounds, but scorches the turkey and “three different kinds of mashed potatoes” after she and Rachel lock themselves out of the apartment when they go to watch the escaped Underdog balloon from the Thanksgiving parade float above their roof at Chandler’s behest (classic Chandler). But when these 20-somethings gather around a meal of grilled cheeses, wine, and Funyuns, liberating themselves from all the routine family drama that rears its head when people drink too much boxed wine, that was probably the moment many of us realized there was an alternative to rolling your carry-on through the fresh hell that is the airport during the busiest air travel time of the year.
Even more than that, this and the other Thanksgiving episodes that followed (remember “The One With The Thanksgiving Flashbacks?”—add it to your Netflix playlist for pre-main event entertainment) served as a playbook of sorts for a new kind of holiday, one where you didn’t have to spend three and a half days pretending to be pumped about your mom’s new paleo green bean casserole recipe or that as an adult, seeing your dad in his underwear at the coffee pot before sunrise isn’t emotionally scarring whatsoever.
The official term Friendsgiving didn’t appear until 2007 on Twitter (and some other proto-social media platform called Usenet that sounds like a plot device from “Short Circuit”). Four years later, when young urbanites who either couldn’t afford the plane ticket home or get the time off from work to travel—or just couldn’t stomach sleeping on their aunt’s trundle bed yet again—were staying put and making their own feasts with other derelict adult children, Baileys Irish Cream saw dollar signs and released an ad using the tag line “Friendsgiving with Baileys.”
Of course, if you want historical accuracy, look to McSweeney’s origin story of the first Friendsgiving, which obviously took place in L.A. in 2008 and was hosted by Millennials. Pummeled by the financial crisis, and bagging groceries at Whole Foods, Millennials had no money to get home for Thanksgiving so decided to throw their own feast “because it was way warmer here than in the Midwest, anyway,” and “like a miracle, one of the Millennials had a friend in graphic design who was pretty badass at Photoshop and willing to design a logo for the eVites and the Facebook page.”
Whether or not Millennials or Monica are responsible for the inaugural meal, you know it’s a legit trend when there’s an emoji rollout—in 2017, Friendsgiving became so prevalent on social media, Venmo created a turkey hand that looks like the hot glue-gun art project you insisted mom hang up on the fridge for the entire month of November.
Friendsgiving has evolved of course. Some people—even old people, like 40-year olds—celebrate Friendsgiving before or after the actual holiday so they can still be with family on Thursday (newsflash: mom doesn’t care if Julie is making the actual ramen from the Momofuku cookbook—get your ass home). Chef Tara Lazar, who owns Cheeky’s, Birba, Mr. Lyons, and Seymour’s in Palm Springs, Calif., has a long tradition of hosting Friendsgiving, but opts to include family members too. “I say combine them!” she says. “It’s one of the only holidays that has nothing to do with religion—just food! Why wouldn’t you want to invite your friends? We usually invite all the Europeans and convert them into Thanksgiving enthusiasts.”
the jellied kind for her brother because, “he still likes it, so we slice that up—gross.” Lazar’s guests leave with something a little more elevated than Tupperware too. “We make two stuffings, one we cook inside the bird, and then one in a Crock-Pot, which is the only time a year we use it, to make sure we have enough so everyone has some to take home with them for leftovers. Then we put it in cute Chinese takeout boxes so everyone has something to take home.”Lazar is a big believer in the potluck (“everyone has an ace in the hole,” she says), but cautions against assigning out the turkey. “Not unless someone is really into it.” Lazar does, however, like variety when it comes to sauces; she makes three cranberry sauces alone, though she reluctantly serves
If you’re not a restaurant-owning chef, doubtful your friends are expecting various cranberry sauces and enough stuffing to feed them for the week. But they are expecting a fun meal, hopefully that goes above and beyond Funyuns and wine. Which is exactly why we’ve put together a fail-safe, you-can-only-win guide to your Friendsgiving this year, whether you celebrate with friends over a basted turkey by candlelight on Thursday or with those leftover string beans on Saturday night. Below, the definitive guide to hosting your own Friendsgiving (plus a sibling, maybe—the one you like). New links will be added every day, so keep checking back to get the whole story.
Week One: Prep
When to do everything so you don’t undercook the bird.
Because you want your guests to feel at home—or like your place is even better.
Obviously, this is based on skills, personality types, and astrology signs.
Put your phone to work too…
Whether you’re just celebrating with your besties or inviting newcomers into the mix, show everyone a good time.
Your job’s a joke, you’re broke? You can still host a fabulous Friendsgiving.
Queue up “Friends” and “The Office” reruns—and all the right tunes for pre-, mid-, and post-meal times.
This way you can have a glass of rosé on the couch too.
What to do if you’re not a “flowers-on-the-table” type of host.
It doesn’t have to be a disaster for anyone involved.
Week Two: The Main Event
Why not show a bit more creativity? (Of course, if you also bring a bottle, it’ll be appreciated.)
All the gadgets and gizmos you need for a perfect gathering.
Don’t get stuck in a rut with your turkey.
We read all the cookbooks so you don’t have to.
Take your cues from others’ triumphs and mistakes.
Did you know crab is common on some Thanksgiving tables? And Baltimore has a thing for sauerkraut.
It’s cheaper and tastier than buying mixers!
Give your guests something to nosh on before the main course (especially if you’re also serving drinks beforehand).
Skip the same old same old and put an elevated spin on all your favorites.
Because you know there’s going to be at least one.
Seems obvious, but there’s a science to it.
Maybe you’re more of a morning person?
Those 90s era twenty-somethings knew how to have a fun meal together.
Steal their ideas and look like a pro too.
Maybe you don’t actually want to ditch your family on Thanksgiving.
It’s not just for summer, and it tastes even better with stuffing.
Week Three: Last-Minute and Leftovers
There’s so much more we can bring to the table.
Avoid that pit-in-your-stomach-feeling when the wine and beer supplies start to dry up.
This isn’t your mother’s Tupperware.
Got a half hour? Then you’ve got this!
Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.