Celebrating Friendsgiving, A Potluck For Pals

By Celestina Blok
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Retailers and pop culture are jumping on the “Friendsgiving” bandwagon. Instead of the traditional family gathering, groups of pals are getting together to chow down and of course give thanks!


A popular new Thanksgiving tradition has nothing to do with what’s on the table, but rather, who’s around it.

Friendsgiving, a gathering of friends over a potluck dinner typically held prior to Thanksgiving Day, has become increasingly trendy among young people who want to spend time with pals before parting ways for the actual holiday.

Appetizers, entrees, sides, desserts and drink responsibilities typically are divvied up among guests in advance, and formats can range from a casual cookout with paper plates to a seated dinner with fine china.

Retailers and pop culture are jumping on the bandwagon. This season, IKEA store design experts are offering tips on how to maximize space for Friendsgiving with folding chairs and strategically placed tray tables.

Target is promoting #friendsgiving party supplies (yep, there’s a hashtag!). And Chip and Joanna Gaines, of HGTV Fixer Upper fame, featured Friendsgiving ideas in the premiere issue of their magazine, The Magnolia Journal, which hit stands last month.

Tanglewood, Texas, residents Katherine and Jeff Proctor experienced their first Friendsgiving five years ago when a buddy from Minnesota hosted the gathering before heading home for the holidays. They’ve hosted the annual event in their home the past two years, drawing around 30 guests.

“We saw a few other people on social media doing it and decided we wanted to do it,” says Katherine. “We usually host it on a weekend when TCU has an away game, because there are so many TCU alumni in our group. It really does revolve around watching football and it’s an all-day thing. People come and go from about 10 a.m. to late in the night.”

The Proctors’ Friendsgiving has a tailgate theme, with Jeff and his buddies handling meats and main dishes on a friend’s custom-built smoker while Katherine and her friends coordinate sides and desserts. Entrees have included everything from brisket and ribs to venison and elk, and there is a fried turkey every year.

“It’s also fun to let everyone bring their traditional dishes from their own families,” she says. “It’s fun to hear what’s a staple at their Thanksgiving. One year, we had tamales and Mexican food.”

Seating is typically “a free-for-all,” Katherine says, adding that tables are set up both inside and out, if the weather is nice.

“At my brother’s Friendsgiving, they set up one long table and everyone sits down at the same time for dinner,” Katherine says. “Ours is a lot more casual. The biggest difference now is that there are kids involved. Next year, there will be almost as many kids as there are adults, which will be really fun.”

Carley and Brandon Moore, both of Fort Worth, will host their third Friendsgiving this year. She, too, says the number of children in attendance is growing, so a babysitter is hired to help. The first year, a group email “went back and forth about 100 times” to coordinate the menu, says Carley.

She now uses that original email to assign dishes in advance, making planning easier and more efficient. Several tables are set up around the house and festive paper plates are used with real silverware.

“For us, we want the point to be to get together and not make it stressful over how fancy it is,” says Carley. “I decorate the tables, but I don’t assign seating because it wouldn’t happen that way anyway. When young kids are in the mix, you’re sitting down in shifts.”

The Moores host their gathering of about 20 friends on a Sunday evening and save even more time by buying a pre-smoked turkey and honey ham.

Chef Kalen Morgenstern, once a contestant on the TV cooking competition Hell’s Kitchen with tenure at Tillman’s Roadhouse and FW Market + Table, has hosted many Friendsgivings for good friends and restaurant-industry folks who may live away from their hometowns or have nowhere to go for the holiday.

“There are about 20 of us,” Morgenstern says. “I’ve done it where we’ve drawn ‘entree,’ ‘salad’ or ‘dessert’ out of a hat and that person has to bring that item, whether they’re good at it or not. It gets them out of their comfort zone.”

Another year, Morgenstern’s theme was “dish switch.” Guests were instructed to bring their item in unique or interesting dishware they were willing to part with and trade for someone else’s. No matter the theme, Morgenstern does have one rule for the group: Nothing is to be store-bought.

Her advice for first-time Friendsgiving hosts?

“Get the date out early and decide on a theme, whether it’s fine dining or a laid-back lunch.”

Katherine Proctor warns that hosts should be ready for a messy house. “Even if it’s a more casual atmosphere, you have to go with the flow,” she says. “And there is never such a thing as too much food. Everyone will end up taking leftovers.”

Carley Moore reminds stress-prone hosts to relish in the real meaning of the gathering.

“Thanksgiving really is my favorite holiday,” she says. “It’s about taking time to be with those you love without any expectations of gifts. It’s about being thankful, and that’s what we want to do with our friends.”

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