By Hope Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
No one really knows where this holiday originated. Some have chalked it up to pop culture, but sometime in the early 2000s, a tradition known as Friendsgiving started. For those unfamiliar with this millennial tradition, I'll establish a definition below.
Friendsgiving: A Thanksgiving holiday substitute for those who are unable to celebrate Thanksgiving with family whether due to living too far away, pandemic restrictions, or other obstacles. Instead of celebrating Thanksgiving with family, they will gather a group of friends, share familiar holiday dishes, and express gratitude for one another.
We've noted in other articles that holidays can be harder on some people. For those of us who cannot see family on Thanksgiving, we may feel greatly left out or that we've missed out on one of America's favorite holidays.
As Christians, this offers an opportunity for us to reach out to those in our congregations who may not have a table to sit at during the late November holiday.
So let's explore why people celebrate it, how we can put a Christian spin on the holiday, and some ideas for how you can celebrate Friendsgiving this year.
Why Do Some Christians Celebrate Friendsgiving?
Not everyone uses Friendsgiving as a replacement for the holiday. Some still intend to have turkey and stuffing with family members on the actual holiday. But a person may schedule a Friendsgiving celebration for the following reasons.
They Have Friends Who Are Far Away from Family (or Are Far Away from Family Themselves)
I first got introduced to the concept of Friendsgiving when I was 300 miles away from home at college. Many foreign exchange students had traveled halfway across the world and had no chances of getting home until Christmas time. This Friendsgiving tradition allowed for all of us—who couldn't celebrate at home—to share a meal with one another.
We'll notice how throughout the New Testament, there's something sacred in meal sharing. After all, Jesus reveals himself to the men on the Road to Emaus after he breaks bread (Luke 24).
In additional to physical distances, some Christians may be emotionally distant from their families. Many have experienced hostility because of their faith. Or perhaps differences in politics or other matters have put a considerable strain on them. Friendsgiving offers an alternative for those who feel like gatherings with their family are fraught with spiritual attacks.
They Want to Celebrate Friendship
Thanksgiving often has its historical roots in friendship and community, so it would make sense to throw a Friendsgiving celebration to delight in these gifts from God.
So how can Christians go about celebrating this holiday?
How Can We Put a Christian Spin on Friendsgiving?
We really don't have to stretch ourselves that much. Gratitude and friendship are embedded in the very nature of how we should act toward God and others. We praise God, and we do life together.
With that said, Friendsgiving can be a great evangelism opportunity. So here is how we can put on a Christian version of Friendsgiving.
Read a Verse about Friendship or Gratitude before Diving In
Many families have a tradition around Christmas to read from the nativity passage before opening presents. We can do the same with the meal set before us.
Talk about How You Are Blessed by Each Friendship
If your family is anything like mine, we have a tendency to go around the table and express gratitude for the blessings we've experienced throughout the year. We can do the same for Friendsgiving, but place the emphasis on the friends themselves who have come in attendance.
Don't Stop at Friendsgiving
Just as we often say, "We really should be thankful more than one day a year at Thanksgiving" we should do the same with friends. We should express gratitude and hospitality to them. Use Friendsgiving as a diving-off point and ask them how you can work them into your regular schedule for coffee or phone calls.
We've explored some ideas on how to evangelize whilst celebrating with friends. So how do we know that we've thrown a proper Friendsgiving shindig that shines Christ's light unto others? Let's dive into some Friendsgiving tips for how to make the most of the celebration.
Some Tips for Your First Friendsgiving
Below I've compiled some tips for how to throw your first Friendsgiving celebration. These aren't comprehensive but may help to spark some ideas.
Invite Those Who Don't Get Invited
Reach out to the ostracized in your church. Those who sit by themselves in a pew, those who are single and past the age of a college student, those who have family out of town, etc. Jesus made a habit of sitting with those who others would've avoided in the lunchroom. Let's do the same.
You may feel the pressure to make every dish yourself. After all, you are hosting. But create a signup sheet or ask people if they're willing to bring certain foods. You should probably tackle the big ones yourself: for instance, the turkey. This will alleviate some of the stress off of your guests. But one of the biggest hallmarks of Friendsgiving is that friends each bring a dish to the table.
It Doesn't Have to Be Fancy
Friendsgiving tends to be more lax than Thanksgiving itself. In fact, you probably don't even need a turkey. A rotisserie chicken serves as a good substitute. Many people who celebrate Friendsgiving will probably also plan to have a Thanksgiving celebration, so make sure to budget accordingly.
You don't have to make it a big to-do. As long as you have a table set and know that friends will bring dishes, the event can be as relaxed as possible. Think of it as a small group meeting, but with some of your favorite Thanksgiving foods.
Friendsgiving allows for us to open our homes to those who don't have a home to go to this holiday season. It embraces Christian fellowship and gratitude, and gives us one more occasion to celebrate God's goodness.
Photo credit: ©Getty/SARINYAPINNGAM
Hope Bolinger is a multi-published novelist and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,200 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy is out with IlluminateYA. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in November of 2021. Find out more about her at her website.