Friendsgiving: The New Turkey Day

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The persistent stink of Grandma’s house. The omnipresent, creepy uncle who just can’t keep his trap closed about his political opinions. The never-ending telecast of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” The nagging family members who want to know when you’ll get married, have children, and all the rest. The list of awful, excruciating experiences drones on beyond the point where the imagination exhausts itself.

So, what do you do?

That got us to thinking: Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a place where we could completely escape the family for the holidays?

It turns out, there is some great news: There is a place to get away!

Ditch Thanksgiving. It’s time for Friendsgiving.

Friendsgiving is the place where we can cast aside the traditional family gathering and instead surround ourselves with our “family of choice.” It's got all the same stuff: food, festivities, and an afternoon snooze, but it's devoid of all that awkward family mess.

For Anthony Hebisen, Friendsgiving is his favorite time of the year, and it’s a virtually unsanctioned event.

“There aren’t many rules for Friendsgiving. It’s a great time for people from many nationalities. You get to show off your own culture,” says Hebisen.

The limited rules are really quite simple for his gathering. Just bring something that one doesn’t normally eat for Thanksgiving, and voila! Bring a basket of muffins, a bouquet of ramen noodles, some hot tuna casserole or a platter of Roadkill surprise. It really doesn’t matter as long as you’re having fun and enjoying the company.

“It’s bonding, and we do it with food. Combining friends and food? Nothing is better,” says Hebisen.

Hebisen invites all his friends to his abode, and his friends escape the stress of family to bring their favorite dish and their latest gossip to get a free pass for fun and delicious morsels.

There’s a certain sense of comfort when surrounded by friends. It’s the same type of comfort where you might even take off your undergarments without the gasp normally expected from family members.

“When it comes to friends, the mask comes off. They know you the best,” says Hebisen. “There’s a certain rapport you have with your family, but with your friends you can take your bra off. There’s no animosity. There’s no stress. And there are no children!”

No children indeed! Who needs those pesky things lurking around and making trouble? Certainly not Michael Garcia, who also chooses to surround himself with friends for the holidays.

“I focus not just on my family but also my friends who I consider family. I noticed a few people who couldn’t go home — either because lack of funds or because they’re here on work visas or they’re undocumented — and for those reasons, I thought, let’s throw something together,” says Garcia. “We can have a home cooked meal, games, fun, and share a good time with the people I like and the people I like to be around.”

It seems like Garcia’s tradition has sparked a yearly expectation. After all, he married his partner this month, and there’s no time like the present to build upon the tradition that they have amassed for several years with their friends and their family of choice.

“It can be a bridge between people of all different backgrounds and views. It’s friends and coworkers who join us. We know they enjoy it because they keep coming back year after year,” Garcia says.

As for the best dish for Friendsgiving?

“The one thing that always stands out is that Stanford (Garcia’s husband) makes the best mac and cheese in Houston, hands down,” brags Garcia. “We can spend all this money on alcohol and decorations, but people just want to know about Stan’s mac and cheese.”

Talk about cathartic. Save us a side dish, and pass us the recipe. We promise not to share it with anyone.

Occasionally, people don’t just buck the trend of celebrating Turkey Day. Sometimes they reject all tradition two-fold. For example, there are people like Victoria Ridgway, who is a West Texas “transplant” and works in finance here in Houston. She doesn’t just bypass Thanksgiving as well as Friendsgiving – she’s made her own tradition: “Fakesgiving.”

Taking the adage "Fake it until you make it," Ridgeway hosts her annual Fakesgiving several weeks in advance of Thanksgiving.

“’Friendsgiving’ is for ‘orphans’ who don’t have families in town, whereas ‘Fakesgiving’ is because all my friends are really good cooks, and I was always really jealous of all the Thanksgiving meals my friends were having,” said Ridgway.

She tells us that she wanted to experience all the culinary delights that her friends were baking without worrying about family, their expectations or that dreaded Black Friday traffic.

No need to explain more, Ms. Ridgway. Food is and always will be the key to our hearts.

But she already knows that. And apparently, she knows how to throw a good party too. It happens to take place on her lawn.

“There’s always a lawn situation, which is a miracle because I’ve always lived in apartments,” Ridgway says. “I set up lights, tables, chairs, and people play croquet.”

Ridgway recalls a particular year when a friend knocked a croquet ball into the esplanade of Richmond Avenue.

“A friend of mine knew how to play croquet, and he was scoring really far behind, so he decided to go rogue. He knocked the ball smooth across the street and into the middle of traffic, but the ball landed on grass, so it was fair play.”

Fakesgiving, gone wild. Count us in for that party!

Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving or Fakesgiving, we are happy to surround ourselves with the people we love and cherish, and we hope that we can be as fortunate to do the same for many more years to come.

Cheers to making the holidays cheery and bright in whatever fashion and family you choose.

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