You’re far from home and getting nostalgic for your favorite holiday traditions. It can be super lonely to be away from your family during the holiday season, especially if your spouse is deployed.
Instead of moping, create your own holiday traditions with your military family. Hosting or organizing a Friendsgiving is easy and gives you a chance to share your favorite festive treats and traditions with the military friends who are dear to your heart.
Organize a Friendsgiving that Rocks
Before, On or After?
First, decide if the Friendsgiving feast will be your main holiday event or something smaller to celebrate before or after the big day. Hosting your celebration on the actual holiday helps to make it feel special. But gathering before or after also gives your friends a chance to travel or spend time with other friends, too.
I’ve always opted to keep our Friendsgiving on actual Thanksgiving. It’s easier and takes my mind off of how far I am from home. This strategy was great during my spouse’s twelve-month deployment. I was so busy cooking that I didn’t have time to be lonely or upset. Having all my local military friends with me filled my heart with joy!
At the same time, decide whether you where you will be eating. Is someone willing to host or should you try to rent a space, like a community space? Also, take the weather into account. We’ve been lucky enough to live in places where it’s sunny and warm all winter long. If snow, rain or cold weather is typical, plan to keep the celebration inside.
If you’ve watched the holiday feast prep growing up, you know that it’s a lot! From the giant turkey to the amazing sides, from appetizers to desserts, there are so many things to cook and serve. Instead of doing it all yourself, delegate tasks to your friends.
Create a Facebook event or use an online invitation service to organize your RSVP list. Ask everyone to share their favorite dish in the group. Check for duplicates and then ask guests if there is another treat they want to bring to the table. After all, there are only so many ways to serve mashed potatoes! In my neighborhood, we start a group text about a month before Thanksgiving to figure out who is bringing what.
Asking your friends to share their favorite holiday foods can lead to fun stories about Thanksgivings past. You also might find a new favorite food! Be sure to request the recipe before your friends leave. You could also provide recipe cards in advance so that everyone can walk away with several new dishes to make at home. It will be like your very own Friendsgiving cookbook!
Drink and Be Merry
Just like food, certain drinks can help folks feel connected to their holiday traditions. Invite your guests to bring their favorite drink to share. My group tends to stick to BYOB, with a very generous policy about sharing.
One fun activity, for adults only, could be a blind taste test. Cover the bottles and let guests choose their favorite beverage. The winner could win a small prize, like a PX gift card or an extra pie to take home.
You could also create a signature drink or serve drinks that pair well with Thanksgiving foods. Make this a potluck, too! Ask one guest to bring a particular mixed drink ingredient or to find a wine that pairs with turkey.
For the kids, serve sparkling juices or let them create their own virgin mocktails. Set out seltzer water, grenadine, flavored syrups and garnishes like cherries and lemons.
After the eating is done, or during a lull in the action, have a little fun. Bust out board games, start up a touch football game or take a walk together.
My friends all chip in on a bounce house. We all have young children, so having a place for them to burn energy throughout the day is crucial. The bounce house keeps everyone busy while the cooking and set up is happening. Plus, they can all bounce off the sugar rush post-dessert. As a special bonus, all the grown-ups love the bounce house, too! We joke that the neighborhood dads enjoy it more than the kids!
If the weather is crummy, use board games or group games, like charades, to keep the conversation and the fun going strong. You could also set out coloring pages for the children. When all else fails, putting on a Thanksgiving movie or taking a virtual field trip to the First Thanksgiving is a solid fall back plan.
Do you celebrate Friendsgiving? Share your favorite traditions and tips in the comments.
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