Food, drink and décor: ideas for Friendsgiving

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Thanksgiving is almost here. If, like many Americans, you find yourself far from your family and unable to travel, this time of year can be acutely difficult. Trust us, though—it helps to remember that the true spirit of the holiday is about generosity, sharing and gratitude for what we are given.

The concept of ‘Friendsgiving’ is a true manifestation of that spirit. If this sounds like a heavy burden to place on a dinner party among friends, remember that part of the fun is that you can follow as traditional or unconventional a path as you like. Whether you consider yourself an old pro or have just discovered the concept, you’ll enjoy our helpful guide to hosting a fabulous Friendsgiving. We’ve even included our favorite cranberry sauce recipe to help you on your way.

Get organized

First, start planning as early as possible. Think about who you want to invite and get RSVPs as soon as you can—it’s much easier to prepare for a dinner party once you have a confirmed headcount, and at this time of year, diaries fill up in a flash. Plus, your far-flung guests will feel so much better knowing they’ll have somewhere to be on the big day.

Once you have your guest list, have fun thinking about seating arrangements. Get out those table leaves you have stowed away and enjoy playing matchmaker.

Decorate your table beautifully

The easiest way to start decorating is to choose a theme from which you can build a color scheme. Think of the season’s bright orange pumpkins, colorful varieties of corn and squash, autumn leaves, or even the more muted taupes, browns, and grays of turkey feathers. You might even embrace the more relaxed spirit of Friendsgiving and adopt unconventional tones like pink or gold, but no matter the choice, once you’ve decided on a color scheme, the rest of your decorating decisions will be easy.

With your theme and colors in mind, it’s time to set your table. Start by selecting the bigger pieces, such as fine linens and china. Then, add your flatware and and glassware in shades or motifs that fit. Our signature faux tortoiseshell flatware and glassware work beautifully with a traditional Thanksgiving color scheme thanks to their dappled amber and brown finish, and these beautiful napkins with hand-embroidered feathers are as suitable for Thanksgiving as anything.

Why not add some decorative flair of your own, like these pinecone candle holders or an adorable hedgehog? You can even branch out with autumnal foliage, sprinkling leaves around your centerpiece, or top everything off with some faux blooms if you’d rather have something that will last forever.

Last but not least, create beautiful place settings. No matter where you’ve put them, your guests will be happy to take their seats with the help of these playful feather name card holders.

Use your favorite family recipes

It’s time to get cooking! If you feel lost without your usual crowd of relatives, you may find the perfect remedy in passing your mother’s lumpy cranberry sauce around the table, or your grandmother’s apple pie, the recipe for which you still have tucked away on a faded old card. Don’t underestimate the power of your family’s cooking to make you feel at home.

Get potlucky

When you’ve come up short on family recipes, don’t fret—this is where the best part of Friendsgiving comes in. Ask guests to bring their own family dishes, and though you won’t have your uncle’s greenbean casserole, you’ll get to try something new. We’ve been introduced to some delicious takes on the classics this way. With everyone contributing a dish (or a bottle), some of the hosting pressure will be off, and more importantly, everyone will be able to share, in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

If you want to keep your table looking consistent with your theme, have matching serveware ready for guests’ dishes when they arrive.


The recipe

We’re sorry to have to miss the party. Please think of this classic chunky cranberry sauce as our mouth-watering contribution to your potluck.

Yield: This side dish serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 (12-ounce) bags of cranberries
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 4 tablespoons port or cognac
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Directions

Add all of the ingredients to a medium-sized saucepan and whisk together until just incorporated. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until you can see that the sauce has reduced slightly and the cranberries have popped open. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Discard the cinnamon sticks, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill. The sauce will thicken as it cools.


Back to basics

Most importantly, think about the true spirit of the holiday, and do your best to be a welcoming host. This time of year, when there’s a chill in the air and people gather together for warmth and hospitality, the adage ‘the more, the merrier’ is especially true. Encourage guests to bring plus ones or their friends who are far from their families, too. Also consider that ‘Friendsgiving’ dinners often include someone who has never celebrated the holiday before. If that’s the case at your meal, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable, encouraging them to participate in whatever way they’d like. Think of it as an opportunity to start new traditions, and to give thanks for friends who are as close as family. Isn’t that the reason you decided to have a Friendsgiving dinner in the first place?

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