Did Friendsgiving originate from the Friends Thanksgiving episodes, or does it have another history? Learn what Friendsgiving means, when it is, and why you should celebrate the tradition this year.

By Blake Bakkila
Updated November 14, 2019
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Few things beat sitting at a table of great food surrounded by your closest friends, which is why Friendsgiving has become such a popular tradition in recent years, even for people who can never seem to remember when Thanksgiving is. Friendsgiving is an opportunity to enjoy the best parts of Thanksgiving, without sometimes stressful family members; it’s celebrating with your chosen family, typically before Thanksgiving arrives. (It’s also a great chance to watch Thanksgiving episodes together.)

Friendsgiving (and all the Friendsgiving food ideas you can think of) may be an annual tradition for you and your friends now, but the celebration is actually new enough that the term hasn’t quite made it into the dictionary yet: “Friendsgiving” is still among Merriam-Webster’s “Words We’re Watching.” The show Friends is known for popularizing the idea, but the word “Friendsgiving” really dates back to 2007, a few years after Friends went off the air. Fortunately for those who value friends as much as family, the friends-first celebration seems to be as popular as the annual sharing of Thanksgiving wishes.

Let us take you through what we know about Friendsgiving and where the idea came from. If you don’t already celebrate, you might want to schedule a group dinner ASAP: Your first Friendsgiving has to happen at some point, and why not this year?

What is Friendsgiving?

Jeffrey W. Miller

Jeffrey W. Miller

The name Friendsgiving is a mashup of “friends” and “Thanksgiving,” and the idea is to spend an evening with the holiday’s classic dishes and your best buds. There isn’t a strict, enduring set of guidelines—Friendsgiving is a totally customizable, modern tradition that’s taken off in recent years. Part of its popularity may be that there are no rules: If your Friendsgiving meal consists of Hot Pockets and store-bought dips, so be it, as long as you and all your dining companions are having a good time. (Another part of its popularity may be that it’s an opportunity to play those party games that you might not want to enjoy with your family members.)

When Is Friendsgiving?

Hero Images/Getty Images

Getty Images

While some celebrate Friendsgiving before gathering with family for Thanksgiving Day, others gather their friends together in lieu of sharing the meal with relatives. Like most Thanksgiving quotes, Friendsgiving can be celebrated any day, any time of year, but most gatherings take place in November, particularly the weekend before Thanksgiving.

How Did Friendsgiving Start?

Paul Drinkwater/Getty Images

Getty Images

There is no official origin story for Friendsgiving. Some might say a hit TV show brought the potluck dinner into the mainstream, but there are a few other, more official theories about who (or what) started the feasting frenzy.

Friends

While the iconic show is included in several explainers for the informal U.S. holiday, the word “Friendsgiving” is never mentioned in Monica’s apartment. Still, perhaps the concept (if not the term) can be dated back to November 1994, when the first season’s Thanksgiving episode aired. Everyone had different reasons for avoiding going home for the holidays, and even though there were some hiccups (almost burning down the apartment, etc.), they toasted to “a lousy Christmas and a crappy New Year” together.

The Twittersphere

It may have been spoken aloud earlier, but the first written forms of the word were found in 2007, according to Merriam-Webster. At the time, Usenet and Twitter showed mentions of “Friendsgiving” from their users.

Bailey’s Irish Cream

The word popped up in a few lifestyle pieces over the next couple of years, but there was a particular surge in 2011, when Bailey’s Irish Cream promoted an ad campaign, “Friendsgiving with Baileys,” according to Merriam-Webster’s findings. The liqueur company asked several influencers to participate by featuring their product in a meal with friends. The result? A national spotlight on the ultimate potluck feast.