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The Rise of Friendsgiving: How Millennials Have Invented Their Own Holiday

It has all the trimmings of a Thanksgiving feast, but none of the family drama. Welcome to the age of Friendsgiving. Millennials in the U.S. are embracing a new version of the fall tradition, gathering with friends for their own turkey feasts and creating their own holiday in the process. 30% of Millennials 13-24-years-old on Thumb told us that they celebrate Friendsgiving. The phrase has even made it to Urban Dictionary. The new holiday has taken over college campuses and urban friend groups alike, and is starting to become an important ritual for many Millennials.

The rules around Friendsgiving are not hard and fast. For some, the holiday replaces Thanksgiving, especially if they are stuck at home, in dorms, or abroad, and aren’t able to make it to their family festivities. Friendsgiving celebrations have been thriving on college campuses, where students might not have the time or money to travel. But for others, Friendsgiving is being added to their schedules in November in the weeks before or the days after their regular Thanksgivings. So if they are already getting their regularly scheduled serving of turkey and pie, why is Friendsgiving becoming a thing?

It might sound like a cliché explanation, but Millennials’ group mentality probably has a lot to do with the new holiday. For them, friends aren’t just friends, but another form of family. As one student newspaper put it, “Not only does Friendsgiving give students the opportunity to be thankful for their second family at school, but it also removes the inevitable awkward moments that come with any family holiday…Have a Friendsgiving. Celebrate both of your families.” Friendsgiving solidifies a friend group or a clique and makes the people in that group feel special, and more like family. On top of that, the holiday is collaborative and communal—usually celebrated potluck style and often thrown by multiple friends. Friendsgiving is also a way for Millennials to feel ownership over the holiday while they are transitioning into adulthood—at home, they may be shooed out of the kitchen, but Friendsgiving is their own event.

Of course, social media also plays a role. Friendsgiving turns the normal Thanksgiving trappings into an event to be documented and over-shared, and is for some a way to show their creativity. A search for the hashtag #Friendsgiving on Instagram currently yields 60,042 images and counting—and that’s not including  #Friendsgiving2013 (currently 3,226 images) or any of the other variations of a Friendsgiving tag. Creative class Millennials who get more elaborate with their Friendsgiving feasts will turn the results into a blog post—some of which look like they could be ripped from the pages of a style magazine.

Blog posts on why Friendsgiving is better than Thanksgiving are also not hard to find. The family drama and stress of Thanksgiving is taken out of the equation. Millennials who cook Friendsgiving meals feel they can be more creative with their food and less constrained by the traditions they have to follow at home—and for a foodie generation, that is a big plus. Finally, booze plays a bigger role. Drinking with friends is more fun than drinking with family—which for most can be weird or looked down on— and “unlike at Thanksgiving, you’re encouraged to have a little buzz at Friendsgiving.”

Brands have started to take notice of the Friendsgiving takeover. This year, Taco Bell invited social media friends to attend their own Friendsgiving feast—which was then broadcasted by the attendees and brand host over their Twitter and Instagram accounts. Paperless Post has created Friendsgiving invitations for its young users to send out, and this year Whole Foods posted some Friendsgiving dos and don’ts on their company blog. We only expect the brand attention will increase as Friendsgiving continues to grow for Millennials who want to keep tradition alive—and get two servings of pie in one week.

Happy Friendsgiving!

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.