It was the early 1980s. Kish and I had just moved to Washington, D.C. We worked on Capitol Hill and lived in a tiny apartment on East Capitol Street. We were young and employed, and eager to flex our adulthood and independence.
When Thanksgiving drew near, we wanted to set our own holiday traditions. So, rather than driving back to Ohio and deciding which set of parents to visit for the big meal, we chose to stay in D.C. with visiting friends from Chicago. We sat at our little table, eating our simple Thanksgiving meal in the bay window of our little apartment, and had a fantastic time. It was one of those little events that nevertheless can be a memorable landmark for a young couple that is in the process of charting their own path and becoming their own family.
Our friends enjoyed themselves, too, and we decided that we would keep up the tradition for as long as we could. For the next few years, until children came, we rotated Thanksgiving between Washington and Chicago, each time enjoying the fellowship . . . and the food. To this day, those Thanksgiving meals have a kind of golden glow in my memory.
We weren’t alone in celebrating Thanksgiving with friends. In fact, in the 30 years since we carved the turkey in Washington, D.C., the notion of “Friendsgiving,” where friends gather to eat together come Thanksgiving time, has become widely popular and even has an entry in the Urban Dictionary.
Of course, the first Friendsgiving was really the first Thanksgiving. The pilgrims didn’t limit participation in their meal to just their own family members; they sat down communally with other members of the settlement and their Indian neighbors as well. They understood that eating together is an intimate, bonding act, one that promotes peace and satisfaction, and they wanted to be inclusive rather than exclusive. In that sense, Friendsgiving is a faithful reflection of some of the most important values that lie at the core of Thanksgiving.