Growing up, my Grandma was always in charge of the Thanksgiving festivities. I always cherished this special day at her house…hearing her wake up before sunrise to prep the turkey, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in the family room with all the cousins, the beautiful table spread, and the crazy clean-up…sans dishwasher;-)
Now that I have my own little family (read: me + hubby + chihuahua), I’m always looking for ideas of starting our own traditions, merging inspiration from both of our childhoods. While our NYC apartment is definitely not equipped to host as many people as Grandma’s house was, we decided to go with a mini-version of her big day…Friendsgiving (Thanksgiving, but with friends!)
Friendsgiving in and of itself is certainly not a new concept, but here are my tips for making it successful, NYC style:
1. Host On A Friday (or better yet…weeknight!)
This is two part. First, if your friends group is anything like ours, you know that weekends in this city fill up months in advance…birthday parties, weddings, weekend trips, the list goes on. So trying to find a weekend that works for everyone is a little tricky.
Secondly, if you host on a Saturday, you spend ALL day prepping, and then ALL day Sunday cleaning up. What was supposed to be a fun celebration ends up being a drain on YOUR weekend. So the solution? Host during a weeknight or Friday. Folks will be coming from work, so the expectation of a fancy dinner party is already lowered…really just relaxing with friends and a glass of wine is where the mindset is.
2. Plan Your Menu Around What Others Are Bringing
So I didn’t do this, but will absolutely be switching it up for next year. If you plan on having your guests each bring a dish, put them all on an email chain and have them respond ahead of time with what they are planning to bring. And then, as the host, YOU create your dishes around those, filling in the gaps. This way you don’t end up with lots of potatoes and no greens.
3. Icebreaker Game
Living in NYC, we’re faced with the unique situation of having a variety of friends from different walks of life (work, old college buddies, yoga class, the dog park…), none of whom actually hang out in the same social group. While we weren’t too worried about this, since all our invitees are pretty social people, I still thought it was important to have a way to break the ice and get everyone engaged.
It being Friendsgiving and all, we had everyone fill out an “I’m thankful for…” card when they arrived and stick it in the Gratitude Jar (i.e. mason jar;-) When we sat down for dinner, we passed the jar around, and everyone picked someone else’s card. We then played charades, acting out what the “thankful for” items were, and based on the answers all guessed who we thought wrote the card. Tons of fun!
(Note: on my cards I chose to give categories rather than leave it blank…I figured it would lend to more creative answers than “I’m thankful for my significant other, my dog, etc.”;-)
4. Bite-Sized Desserts
Again, we’re taking into account small space and cleanup here. While my Grandma would always clear the table and reset for a proper sit down dessert featuring a million and one pies, our living space is entirely too small for this. Since our kitchen is basically in our dining room which is basically in our living room, there was no way I was going to start the cleanup while my guests were still here, cause I knew it would spark everyone to pitch in…and that was just not the vibe I was going for.
So to eliminate the problem, I made desserts that were small and could be eaten with your hands…fudge, mini cheesecake bites, and cookies. I put them on plates on the coffee table, where I herded everyone to sit after dinner was over. We noshed on sweets while playing a few crazy rounds of Cards Against Humanity. Perfect way to wrap up the evening!
5. Decant That Cheap Wine
And my final tip…(and yes I’m aware that this is going to make me sound like a total cheapo, but NYC wine stores are expensive!)…is to decant your cheap wine. When hosting a dinner party of 9 people, you go through bottles of wine in no time. I always think it’s nice to start with the good bottles early in the night when people are still able to appreciate its oaky finish, but after a few bottles, I decant the cheap stuff…ensuring it still has a nice presentation, but not feeling guilty about blowing a bunch of money on alcohol. While we probably had one or two folks in the mix with discerning palettes, I’m pretty sure the rest couldn’t tell the difference, and if they did, were too tipsy to care much at that point;-)
All in all, it was a lovely evening, and the hubs and I are so happy to have started our own little Friendsgiving tradition, NYC style!
Do you celebrate Friendsgiving? Share your tips/tricks below!
By: Jessica Tiare Bowen
This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox.