Friendsgiving, a Thanksgiving celebration among friends, holds a beloved place in the hearts of students, sometimes even more than its familial alternative. For those who find themselves away from home or simply wish to gather with loved ones, Friendsgiving celebrations foster unique forms of bonding and expressions of gratitude among students.
Especially due to the fraught history of Thanksgiving, many students choose to focus on expressing gratitude through alternative celebrations. Though it borrows its name from Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving is popular precisely for its casual structure. Since it’s not beholden to any set of familial traditions, it can take different forms for each group of friends.
For Cathleen Ma, U2 Arts and a second-generation Chinese immigrant, Thanksgiving has never been a part of her family tradition or culture. In university, she used the reading break to see friends kept apart by busy schedules.
This year, Ma took part in a Friendsgiving potluck celebration. Some brought store-bought items for a stress-free evening, while others made cultural foods. The dinner table was transformed into a mosaic of diverse offerings, including Tandoori rice, a vibrant veggie stir-fry, rotisserie chicken, and even Madeleines.
“It wasn’t traditional at all,” Ma said. “There was a huge variety of dishes that people made that I could never make at home.”
An occasion often used to gather with one’s chosen family, Friendsgiving conjures images of exclusive, tightly knit groups. But platonic bonds, unlike blood relations, can be more easily formed between strangers. With people bringing their siblings and acquaintances from different social circles, Ma’s friendsgiving brought new and old friends together.
“It definitely differed from our usual get-togethers because there was [others’] family there […] and it wasn’t just a singular friend group,” Ma said. “It was an opportunity to get to know all these different people.”
Faith Ruetas, U2 Arts, celebrated the holiday on a smaller scale with her roommate. They made lentil and mushroom Wellington, a dish the two had never tried before, and then went the lazier route for dessert, indulging in a premade blueberry pie.
When away from loved ones, perhaps one of the best reassurances one can provide is the snapshot of a good meal. Before eating, Ruetas and her roommate arranged and decorated their dinner table before sending pictures to their families.
“I was really proud of our spread,” Ruetas said. “My popo responded with one word: ‘Wow.’ Even though we’re in different provinces, I’m happy I was still able to share something with her.”
Arantza Fernandez and Christal OuYang, both U3 Arts, also celebrated the holiday together this year. Though Fernandez is from Mexico, where Thanksgiving isn’t typically celebrated, her time in Montreal led her to observe the holiday with her family.
“It’s not a thing in Mexico,” Fernandez explained. “Last year when I [was] back home in Mexico, I forced my family to have Thanksgiving with me.”
OuYang has always stayed in Montreal for the holiday.
“I’m from Vancouver, and I usually do not go home for Thanksgiving just because Thanksgiving is not really like a big celebration for us,” OuYang explained.
This year, Fernandez and OuYang organized a dinner among friends where each person brought something to the table.
“I think Friendsgiving is having all of the people you care about come together and everybody contributes something in a collaborative effort,” OuYang said.
The meal consisted of chicken, cranberry walnut salad, vegan shepherd’s pie, cranberry sauce, a green bean casserole, carrot cake, banana bread, and wine. They turned all the lights off and listened to a playlist combining jazz and classical music.
“We played a little game where we were not allowed to talk until we finished all the food and drinks,” OuYang explained. “[We got] to really appreciate each other’s company without words.”