November would not be the same for me if it wasn’t for Friendsgiving. For the last eight or nine years, my friends and I have gotten together a couple weeks before Thanksgiving to cook, celebrate and give thanks together. It’s a holiday tradition I can’t imagine ever giving up.
When I was growing up, I was surrounded by dozens of cousins, aunts and uncles. I had two sets of grandparents nearby, and I was never lonely. My mom’s gigantic Italian family kept me company on one side, and my dad’s enormous French-Canadian family cocooned me on the other. If there was a holiday or event, there was a one hundred percent chance that it would be a madhouse. A feast! A loud, chaotic human zoo.
Every kid’s holiday dream.
That was then. The decades have changed our families. All those little kids grew up and started families of their own. Some of us drifted apart, and others moved away. My family lives a thousand miles from my childhood home. A lot of the older generation, including most of my grandparents passed away years ago. We do our best to keep in touch, especially on my dad’s side, but big family holidays are mostly a thing of the past now.
As for local family, my husband has one brother that lives close by, and I have my dad and his husband.
And that’s it. Everyone else lives hours and hours away. Once in a great while, we make the trek to spend a special occasion with the extended family, but those times are the exception—not the rule. I make an effort to make the holidays beautiful for the family that lives close, but our gatherings are intimate affairs. There just aren’t many of us.
I would be so sad that my kids are growing up with a much different childhood than I had, but I’m so lucky to say that they actually aren’t. My close-knit friend group stands in as the aunts, uncles and cousins that my kids don’t have nearby. Our yearly Friendsgiving dinner is my kids’ version of the big, cousin-filled soirees I cherish from my childhood.
My sisterhood is comprised of five women who have loved each other fiercely through thick and thin. Throughout the years, dozens of others have come and gone, but these five have withstood every storm together. We have seen each other through births, deaths, miscarriage, divorce, and surgeries. We have cooked a million dinners for and with one another. One person’s baby is everybody’s baby. When something big happens, it would be literally inconceivable to call on anyone for help or excitement except for this group.
It only makes sense that because we all spend the actual holiday with our respective blood relations, we intentionally carve out another time to be grateful with one another every November, too. Friendsgiving is that time, and we have all grown to cherish it. (Plus, we all know each other’s kitchens which means this is the one group where we can do dinner potluck style and not worry about someone’s cat licking the butter.)
We all know that once a year, our friend with six kids will show up a few minutes late. Her five sons and her daughter will burst through the front door in matching themed smocked outfits, and that will signal her family’s arrival. She will walk into the house pushing a stroller, laughing at the madness, and carrying a pan of the most delicious sweet potatoes.
The friend whose children are teens will almost always host Friendsgiving because her house is the cleanest, and she gets the most sleep. She will go overboard with everything from décor to crafts for the kids to portion sizes. You can always count on entirely too many plates, too much turkey, and seven zillion juice boxes for the kiddos—not that anybody is complaining.
Our business owner friend will get there early because she’s used to meeting deadlines, and she will probably have already been fourteen other places that day. Entrepreneurs never rest. In the midst of her crazy-busy life, she is always going to find time to make broccoli casserole. It’s her husband’s granny’s recipe, and it just wouldn’t be a holiday for her family without it.
Our light-hearted, sometimes quirky friend will show up to Friendsgiving looking stylish with her two beautiful blue-eyed kids and a little bowl of fruit salad. It will look like a thimble next to the ludicrous abundance the rest of us bring. She will laugh about it, and she will not be self-conscious because she’s our free spirit. We love her little fruit salads, and we are honestly just happy if she doesn’t somehow befriend a stranger on the way over and invite them to the festivities.
And then there’s me. I’ll bring mashed potatoes, anxiety, and a tendency to completely overshare, but usually in a way that at least makes people laugh. If I’m lucky, all of my children will have shoes on and nobody will have spilled anything on their matching Target fall t-shirts before I got a picture.
We will spend the whole day listening to our kids laugh, bicker, and run around until they’re literally exhausted. Our husbands are the dad version of us. On Friendsgiving (and every other time we get together) they bond over whiskey and cigars while our sixteen combined children run amok and keep each other entertained.
Friendsgiving is the highlight of my November. These quirks have become our traditions. These people have become as much a part of me as the people who share my DNA. Friendsgiving is a family holiday for us—a non-negotiable.
My kids don’t have aunts and uncles and cousins close by, but they have this family—the one that life handed us in some kind of stroke of cosmic luck. Friendsgiving is a time to thank God and each other for the beautiful life we get to spend together all year long. This is our family. The fact that we chose each other makes that fact even sweeter.