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How Friends Festival found its place in the holiday season


From articles on how to throw a successful Celebration of Friends dinner, to a 2020 Netflix movie of the same name, the holiday has come a long way from its casual origins. And while there are no official numbers on how many people celebrate, its growing status in the public consciousness shows just how popular the celebration has become.

Amy Adamczyk, a sociologist and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, speculates, may be related to economic change back to 2007. Many young people may have moved to a large city for work as soon as the Great Recession hit, potentially leaving them unable to afford to return home for Thanksgiving or take on jobs that require work. on holiday, she said. So a more intimate gathering between friends makes more sense.
But it can also be related to delays when people get married or have childrenAdamczyk, author of “Giving the Faith: How Parents Pass on Their Religion to the Next Generation.” As more people get married later in life or delay having children, some may not have an immediate family of their own to celebrate the holiday.

“We have these gaps in a way that we weren’t used to, because you’re going to have children,” Adamczyk said.

For these people, going home for Thanksgiving, essentially a long weekend away, may not always make sense, especially if they live further away from their parents and extended family, she said.

Meghana Srikrishna and a group of friends hosted a Friendship Dinner for six years.

Such is the case with Megan Clark, 36 years old of Maryland. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Clark and a group of friends had been hosting Friends Celebration dinners regularly for about 10 years. The tradition first started with Clark when she was in college – her parents lived abroad, so she couldn’t really come home to visit. When she moved to Washington, DC after graduating, the trend continued. For her, Friends Thanksgiving is just as important as the traditional, family-centered Thanksgiving.

“I think especially in DC, nobody’s really here, people move here to get a job or go to school or whatever,” Clark told CNN. “I can go home once a year for Christmas. My friends are my family here.”

Clark said that even if friends have moved elsewhere, they will still return for the annual Friendship Day. A former college roommate, who had never actually lived in DC, would take the train from Philadelphia every year just because dinner was so much fun.

Even the act of cooking a turkey each year becomes the bond that holds the group together: One person cooks it for a few years, and then assigns the task to the next. When it was Clark’s turn, the previous turkey chef arrived early “to make sure I didn’t burn the house down,” she said. In 2020, unable to gather for an extended dinner, many friends reached out to Clark for advice on how to cook this bird dish.

“We always stop and people will go around and say what they’re grateful for,” she said. “So it really feels like a family dinner.”

Friends Festival is an opportunity to recreate a great holiday

Meghana Srikrishna, 25, a master’s student at George Washington University, has been doing the annual Friendship Dinner with friends since high school since 2015. (Note: Srikrishna is a friend of this writer, who didn’t attend the Friendship Day celebration.) Her family never grew up with the traditional Thanksgiving, so the annual gathering became her main focus for the event. It’s a small group of people, but every year she visits her favorite recipe websites in search of takeout dishes her friends might not eat.

“There’s always a lot of talk about how family events can go toxic to some people. It’s hard for people to see the extended family because of trauma, or whatever,” said Srikrishna. But with things like Friends Festival, even Galentine’s Maybe, we’re all reinventing these ideas about what the holidays should look like. “
Adamczyk agrees, noting that in her experience, there wasn’t as much intention in the past to see friends around the holidays as now. She told CNN she usually goes to the movies on Thanksgiving and – even though the sitcom “Friends” aired multiple episodes of Thanksgiving of gangs getting together during the 1990s – the prospect of gathering with friends for dinner never crossed her mind.
Srikrishna's Thanksgiving dinner has become the main event of her Thanksgiving.  One year, they made a cake.

Although Adamczyk currently celebrates both Friends and Thanksgiving, she hesitates to say that the rise of a non-family holiday may signal the growing importance of chosen family. selected compared with the blood family.

“Given the limitations of this holiday, people are finding it relatively manageable to replace (Thanksgiving) with (Feast of Friends),” she said, referring to the shorter period of time often associated with the holiday. regarding the holiday, adding that many “will do the traditional four-week, Christmas holiday.”

Since family time is almost guaranteed in winter, says Adamcyzk, it’s easier for people to overlook the family obligations traditionally associated with Thanksgiving, assuming they’ll do it instead. trip in December. But a friends version of Christmas, she said, probably won’t be as popular.

Friendship has become a tradition for many people

Sara Thompson, a 46-year-old lawyer in Atlanta, is for the 13th consecutive year hosting the Friends Festival, an event that originally started as a way to sample dishes for her law firm’s noodle soup. Miss. Now, friends tell her how excited they are for the annual tradition in early July.

“People feel like these are the people they really want to meet,” Thompson said, explaining that no one has to worry about political divisions or fearful questions about when they will get married. “I think that’s why it lasted so long and became something we all really looked forward to. People who come now don’t have to carry anything, and that’s okay because it’s important. especially seeing people.”

Although Thompson, like Adamczyk, still celebrates the traditional Family Thanksgiving every year, the annual Friends Festival allows her to have a social opportunity built into her schedule, a relief. for those whose workdays can be as long as 14 hours.

She can also explore more creative food options – her husband smoked turkey and brisket for dinner, for example, a huge feat for someone who hasn’t actually cooked before. The dinner has also become symbolic of more than just an alternative or alternative thanksgiving – this year, for example, they’re celebrating a friend who’s now recovered from cancer.

As many Americans imagine Thanksgiving, the holiday looks the same: A long, rectangular table, turkey center, blood relatives, and perfect side dishes. But Festival of Friends allows space for a more real and messy experience, says Srikrishna, allowing the holiday to be, honestly, whatever the attendees want.

“We’ve done our research through movies and TV to see what Thanksgiving looks like, and I can only speak from my experiences, but I rarely feel like a bunch of people cutting into food. perfect,” she said. “When I think about (these holidays), I really associate them with my friendships. Not saying I don’t tie them to my family either, but I think it’s really great that we make it a priority. So are my friends.”

Based on the growing public awareness of Friendship, it seems many people would agree.

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