From pumpkin pie to roasted turkey and spiced cider, November is brimming with delicious fun! And there are plenty of ways to celebrate this season with your nearest and dearest. Enter Friendsgiving! It’s the perfect excuse to show your gratitude and catch up with friends you may not get to see on the actual holiday. Keep reading for our fast, no-fuss Friendsgiving ideas.
What is Friendsgiving?
The word itself is a play on the combination of Friends and Thanksgiving. It’s a low-key, low-stress get-together — usually taking place sometime before or even right after Thanksgiving depending on your group’s schedules — where you can enjoy some of the holiday’s best dishes surrounded by your best friends! Most Friendsgivings are potluck-style, which means even less stress on the host and more time spent mingling.
While there’s no official origin story of the Friendsgiving concept, many people credit the beloved TV show Friends as bringing the potluck Thanksgiving idea to the mainstream. They don’t utter the actual phrase Friendsgiving on the episode (which aired in 1994), but the best pals wined and dined on a potluck-style feast while toasting to the holiday and their dear friendships — which is exactly what Friendsgiving is meant to be.
Check out the best Friendsgiving moments from the iconic show below!
How to host your own friendsgiving
“When it comes to throwing a harvest party — like Friendsgiving — keep it affordable by using some items you already have,” says party and event pro Brianna Adams, founder of PartiesWithACause.com. One of Adams’ favorite things about throwing a Friendsgiving bash: There are no formal rules! Set out a simple, seasonal mix of appetizers, bites and treats (some store-bought and some homemade) and also ask guests to bring their favorite dish or dessert. The best Friendsgivings are potluck-style!
Setting up a special “help yourself” Friendsgiving spread is as easy as adding seasonal fare and a bit of harvest flair to a table, like this one (above) styled by Adams. To get the look, top a table with serving platters filled with treats and to-go boxes (see how-to below), then set a cake plate at the center of the table and display a flower-filled pumpkin vase or hollowed-out pumpkin on top. To finish, sprinkle mini pumpkins and gourds, blooms, fruit and veggies on the table. Also smart: Set up an extra console table or folding table nearby where guests can drop off and display the dishes they bring.
Welcome everyone with a cozy seasonal cocktail
A flavorful hot toddy is an ideal cocktail for a crisp fall day. To make: About 30 minutes before guests arrive, pour a bottle of white cranberry juice in a large pot and cook over low heat. Then, add 10 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks and one orange (thinly sliced); simmer for 45 minutes. For each cocktail, ladle juice into a mug, then stir in 1 oz. of apple-flavored whiskey (like Evan Williams Apple Whiskey). Garnish with a cinnamon stick, apple slices and a mint sprig if desired. (Click through for more fun cocktails featuring Mezcal, tequila’s delicious cousin.)
Light up any corner with a twinkling quartet
All it takes to create a stunning glowing focal point are a few battery-operated pillar candles, handfuls of harvest pickings and twine. To do: Gather 4 battery-operated pillar candles in rich harvest hues, then tie a length of twine into a bow around each. Tuck a cluster of berries, acorns or a leaf (gathered from the yard) under each bow.
Dress up plates in simple autumnal charm
Your everyday dishes get a fresh fall makeover with a few backyard snippets and a rustic wrap. To do: For each setting, place a wooden charger on table; top with a white dinner plate and a white appetizer plate. Fold a 20″ square napkin in half, forming a rectangle. Set flatware on top of napkin and cinch with a length of thin rustic rope, jute or raffia. Finish by tucking in a few pieces of wheat, berries and seasonal blooms on the plate. Place a few mini pumpkins and pinecones nearby on table to finish.
Friendsgiving food ideas: Warm up with a seasonal soup
“Soup is good for the soul — especially butternut squash soup,” Adams says. For a fresh twist on this classic recipe, allow guests to customize bowls with tasty and clever toppings presented on your buffet table! To make a batch, simply heat up store-bought butternut squash soup in a slow cooker. Next, set out ramekins filled with tasty mix-ins like chopped apples, toasted pumpkin seeds, Parmesan cheese, croutons, chopped herbs, sour cream and a bottle of herb-infused oil. To finish, add spoons to ramekins and place small bowls next to slow cooker so guests can easily help themselves. (For more autumnal dish ideas, click through for these delicious pumpkin recipes.)
Boost the beauty with a blooming gourd display
Simple yet stunning, this berry-kissed pumpkin bouquet offers a gorgeous greeting wherever it’s displayed. To do: Start by cutting off the top of a small pumpkin; use a metal spoon to remove seeds and fruit inside gourd. Place a soaked cut-to-fit piece of floral foam inside pumpkin. Next, cut a small handful of autumnal berries (like Rowan), leaves and greenery from the backyard to lengths between 4″ and 9″. Insert stems into foam, one at a time, forming a relaxed fall mix. Next, cut small handful of fall blooms (like mums) to the same lengths and insert into foam; filling in any gaps. Display on an entryway table, buffet table — or make 3 bouquets and line them down a dining table.
Friendsgiving food ideas: Wow with a woodland cake
This leafy “birch-bark” cake is sure to wow! To do: Bake vanilla cake batter in 2 round cake pans; let cool, then stack, spreading vanilla frosting between layers and around cake. Use an edible gold paintbrush (Buy at Walmart, $5.66) to add gold strokes to the cake. To make the trendy “drip” icing, warm 1⁄2 cup of heavy cream, pour over 1 cup of white chocolate chips and stir in edible gold dust; drip over the top edge of cake. Top rim of cake with pears and candy leaves.
Friendsgiving food ideas: Pack up leftovers in to-go boxes
Whether it’s leftover pie, honeyed ham, green beans or the like, guests will delight over taking home food in cute to-go containers! At her Friendsgiving, Adams set out on-theme paper boxes so guests could fill them up on their way out the door. To make them, she used a black marker to jot “give thanks” on take-out boxes (Buy from Amazon, $23 for 40 boxes) then set them on her buffet for guests to fill.
Keep it fun with activities and music
Gratitude is the meaning of the holiday, so it’s the perfect time to reflect on the moments you appreciate most together. Make these memories last with a “thankful tree.” To make, nestle a branch in a vase filled with rocks, then leave pens and a stack of paper leaf shapes nearby for guests to jot down a cherished moment. Attach leaves to the tree with tape to finish.
Out of all the Friendsgiving ideas, Adams notes that celebratory music is a must-have! Create a playlist of music about friendship. A few to get you started: “You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor, “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen, “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars and “That’s What Friends Are For” by Stevie Wonder. For a premade playlist with a variety of modern and classic tunes that are sure to keep your crowd in the party spirit, try the ‘Thanksgiving Top Tracks Playlist’ on Spotify.
Surprise them with festive Friendsgiving party favors
Before the busy holiday season begins, give your guests a token that will inspire them to relax. Just pick up fall-scented candles, soaps, lotions and bath bombs from the dollar store or farmer’s market, then place one or two items in a small box. Wrap the package in brown kraft paper, then tie with rustic rope or twine. To finish, cinch a small bundle of leaves (real or faux) together with ribbon and tuck under twine. For extra fall flair, affix a few chestnuts to the top of the box using hot glue.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
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