Friendsgiving is nothing new—in fact, it’s been nearly 10 years since YPulse first reported on the rise of this new holiday tradition among Millennials. It began especially on college campuses as a reprieve from, or replacement for, family centered celebrations, the kind filled with the typical dramatics of holiday stress. In the years following, Friendsgiving became a mainstay for many young people. But the need to keep a tight circle during COVID impacted their ability to get their whole group together.
However, YPulse’s yearly Thanksgiving Plans report finds 82% of Gen Z and Millennials say they’re planning to celebrate Thanksgiving the way they did before COVID. Last year, 62% of 13-39-year-olds celebrating Thanksgiving said they’d be staying at home for the holiday, and only 52% say so this year. Having forgone holiday plans with anyone outside their “bubble” during COVID, young people are eager to get back to seeing their loved ones this year—including their close friends. And clearly, they’re planning on getting back to their pre-COVID traditions, with YPulse data showing the number of 13-39-year-olds celebrating Friendsgiving is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels:
Friendsgiving is rebounding post-COVID
For the first year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Millennials say they’ll be celebrating Friendsgiving as much as they did before it. Gen Z hasn’t quite reached their pre-pandemic gathering numbers, but are slowly and surely getting back to it. YPulse’s Experiences report shows that this year, nearly three quarters of young people say they’re not quarantining, and more than 60% say they’re comfortable hanging out with friends or family in-person inside, meaning their usual gatherings in the colder months are on the upswing.
Additionally, 37% of 13-39-year-olds celebrating Thanksgiving say hosting friends/family will be a part of their plans—nearly back to the 40% who said so in 2019. This can be a big part of Friendsgiving, especially for Millennials who began this tradition in college. As they’ve grown up, some say they find this is one of the few times of year they are all able to get together in one place.
And, while Friendsgiving is generally looked at as a secondary celebration to the family centered day-of one, for some it is their primary holiday gathering. Some young people have different notions of family than the generations before them, which include the friends they call their “chosen family.” The pandemic especially strengthened the bonds of these families by choice, as young people made the decisions of who they wanted to be around when times were hardest. Last year, on the topic of Friendsgiving, a writer for the Atlantic said one reason this holiday has been taking on importance may be because “families themselves have changed—and nonrelatives have become more likely to take on family-like roles in people’s lives.”
Gen Z are carrying on the Friendsgiving tradition, with added meaning
Beyond the heartwarming love for their friends, some Gen Z cite social consciousness as the reason they’re willing to ditch traditional Thanksgiving celebrations. Meguire Hennes, a self-identified member of Gen Z, writes for Her Campus that Gen Z “recognizes the pain and suffering that Indigenous people associate with Thanksgiving.” YPulse’s recent Education report finds that one of the top subjects young people think students should be learning in school is more diverse perspectives on history. Hennes says they believe “Gen Z has the power to change the narrative,” which means for those who are also interested in this less common holiday conversation, this topic will likely be abuzz on social media come November. But, by recognizing Friendsgiving, Hennes says the younger gen can maintain the meaningful spirit of celebrating their loved ones without “keeping this problematic holiday alive.”
TikTok is spreading Friendsgiving trends
Friendsgiving looks different for every group of young people, as there are no set requirements or even dates the celebration has to adhere to. But in their budget-conscious fashion, many take the potluck route, and swap their formal looks for casual weekend wear. There’s few ways better to tell exactly how young people celebrate events than looking at their TikToks. While only 54% of young people agree they’ll definitely post a thanksgiving dinner pic on social media, the hashtag #Friendsgiving has 2.9B views on TikTok, and each year appears to take on different trends. While still too early to say what new audio or challenge will emerge this year, a few styles of content pop up for celebrations that they’re likely to repeat.
Many users make compilations of each of their friends walking in the door, showing what they’re bringing to the table. College students come with budget favs like a single pack of King’s Hawaiian rolls and two boxes of Cheetos mac and cheese, and in one tragic entrance, a tray of pasta spilling as they open it to show off. Others, in a video captioned “cousinsgiving Gen Z edition,” shows everyone showing up with store bought, or even fast food, platters. Another popular trend shows what time each friend shows up, compared to what time the host told them all to arrive. A video with 2.5M likes shows very few members of a big friend group showing up on time to the 7:30pm invite, (though those who brought handmade foods are forgiven). This kind of content shows that Gen Z has not only taken on Millennials’ Friendsgiving tradition, but the “anything goes” attitude that comes with it; all that really matters is that all their friends are together, and making it up as they go is part of the fun.