The Thanksgiving holiday is associated with family, food, and friendship. All things for which we should be thankful, especially this year. However, the holidays as a military family are often spent far from home, away from family and friends, and often with an immediate family member deployed. Add in the complications of COVID-19, and this Thanksgiving is sure to look quite different than in years past. One way to reframe the upcoming holiday is to think about hosting a military Friendsgiving.
The Perfect Military Holiday
Merriam-Webster defines Friendsgiving as a blend of the words friend and Thanksgiving and refers to a large meal shared amongst friends on or near the Thanksgiving holiday. Some may consciously choose to celebrate in this manner, while others do so because they are away from family during this time of year.
If you think about it, this is the perfect military holiday. As military families, we are often living far away from family. Also, we may be facing deployments during the holidays. This year, we are encouraged to distance ourselves even further from family and friends due to the global pandemic.
Celebrating a Friendsgiving allows us to celebrate friends who feel like family when we are far from home. Our military support systems may include friends from our neighborhood, unit, workplace, or school. It is the perfect time of year to be thankful for these friendships that keep our families afloat due to the military lifestyle. So how do we go about hosting this festive occasion?
Think about how many people you would like to include and invite people early so all can plan. When building your invitation list, think about those who are single and might be alone on Thanksgiving. Also, think about those who have a family member deployed. By hosting these guests, you can make someone’s holiday memorable and feel good in the process.
If you don’t have a large space, don’t worry. This year more than ever, it is essential to hold smaller gatherings and spread out as much as possible. Think about hosting the event in your backyard if weather permits. Are you worried you don’t have enough chairs or a table large enough? Look into rentals from your local base MWR facility.
Divide and Conquer
Don’t let the menu and meal plan overwhelm you. The purpose of this celebration is to have fun, give thanks, and help all feel closer to home when physically far from loved ones and family.
Divide and conquer the tasks and meal preparation by organizing the event as a potluck. Make a list of traditional dishes and ask each guest to prepare and bring one. You can also ask guests to think of their favorite Thanksgiving dish based on their family traditions and ask them to bring it to Friendsgiving 2020.
Finally, don’t forget about the littlest turkeys. Keep some kid-friendly foods in mind and always ask about potential food allergies. Perhaps consider having a separate kids table with dishes made especially for them like mac-n-cheese.
Share and Give Thanks
No Thanksgiving celebration would be complete without sharing traditions and giving thanks. A great conversation starter or toast is to ask all to say what they are thankful for, especially this year.
Another great way to celebrate is to ask all to share their favorite family Thanksgiving tradition with the group. Hearing these traditions might help all feel closer to home and give others some great ideas for future holidays.
Finally, Thanksgiving is a time of grace, gratitude, and giving. Consider providing your guests the opportunity to give to others at your Friendsgiving. Ask them to bring a toy for the upcoming Marine Toys for Tots drive. Perhaps all could provide a canned good or non-perishable food item to donate to a local food pantry. Maybe after sharing your meal, all could volunteer at a local church or shelter to serve food to those alone and less fortunate.
Thanksgiving is a special time to reflect on the bounty of blessings we all have in our lives. This year it has been challenging to see the positives in many things. However, this November, we have the chance to stop, think, and be thankful. This Thanksgiving, when we can’t be with our family, make friends into family and celebrate a Friendsgiving instead.
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