A big part of Orphan Week is the realization that you can’t take the time off to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday—whether you can’t afford to take time off from your new job, or “home” is just too far away to spend airfare on a four-day trip. (Or maybe you simply don’t want to interact with your old high-school friends!) But not to worry, because in missing out on past traditions, you carve out the space to create a new one: Friendsgiving.
Basically, it’s an opportunity to experience your favorite traditions you loved as a child — without nagging parental supervision or rules on when to eat — and get to know your friends better because this is a sentimental holiday.
Invite people over early. For a lot of dinner parties you’d prefer that your guests not arrive until the food is fresh out of the oven and the table’s actually set. But half of the Thanksgiving tradition is hanging around in the kitchen cutting vegetables and catching up, or at least putting on the parade/football game in the background. A turkey takes forever to cook, so you’re going to want some company.
Scale things down. I know I just talked about turkeys above, but it may be that your kitchen simply doesn’t allow for such extravagance. There’s no shame in going for easier food that still evokes the spirit of the holiday: Turkey sandwiches with stuffing, for instance. Or let your guests decide, which brings me to…
Encourage a potluck. I did this for a recent housewarming party because we didn’t know how many guests we’d have, so we weren’t over- or under-prepared in terms of food. With Friendsgiving standing in for such an important holiday, it’s more likely that you will have a head count; regardless, it’ll take some pressure off you if other people are contributing the side dishes. That way, each person feels like s/he had a hand in personalizing the celebration, and you’ll get to discover new and unusual dishes to include in future Thanksgiving dinners. (For instance, my dad brings mac’n'cheese to every empty-nesters Thanksgiving dinner with his friends, and it’s always a hit.)
Make cute, simple place cards. You’ve done it again, Martha Stewart! Her website has two turkey-themed place settings that are adorable but actually doable. You can make pinecone turkeys for each guest, or if you’re feeling a little more ambitious, paper turkeys with trivia questions. (Martha suggests you ask questions about the holiday itself, but I think it’d be more amusing if you included trivia about each of your friends, providing you know them well enough, and have the others try to guess.)
Get themed entertainment. If you can track down all five of our favorite Thanksgiving episodes — How I Met Your Mother, Gossip Girl, etc. – that’ll cover you for a few hours.
Or ditch the TV altogether! If you’re burnt out, TV-wise, after the parade and game, then might we suggest a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity over dessert? Because there’s nothing like spitting out your pumpkin pie because you’re laughing so hard.
Do good. Hours away from the next big holiday season, you can already feel the Christmas spirit stirring in you. You’ll have some downtime before our next and last Friendsgiving event, so we suggest you check out a warm coat drive in your town/city. These will likely have started as the weather turned crisper in November and will last through til Christmas. If you’re anticipating a new coat for the holidays or find that you have one too many, you can help out someone who may not be able to afford a coat this time of year. (As long as it’s “gently worn” and not in shreds, of course.)
Kick off Christmas. Even though you’ve been complaining about hearing holiday songs at the stores, you can’t deny that you’re looking forward to the holiday. So why not go all New Year’s Eve on Thanksgiving’s ass and switch gears at midnight? Choose a favorite Christmas movie — I’m partial to Love Actually, which actually starts four weeks before December 25 — and count down to midnight, when you sip some bubbly and settle in to watch. (And sing along to the music, of course.)