Friends are often the family we choose, particularly around the holidays. Whether you don't have a relationship with your family or they live too far away for you to get there this Thanksgiving, it can be really fun to celebrate with a great group of friends. You might approach the holiday in a different manner when you are all pooling your resources and you don't have relative who demands that things be done a certain way. And you most likely will have a bunch of kiddos running around so here are some awesome kid-friendly Friendsgiving ideas for 2017.
A nice thing about establishing your own tradition with your friends is that you probably have kids around the same age so a vat of mac and cheese will go a long way. Just make sure you get the boxed kind, nothing fancy with breadcrumbs, and definitely not multicolored; monochromatic is key. As everyone probably has their own family traditions, you can decide as a group to incorporate (or eliminate) them, and you don't have to worry about being a good daughter-in-law or your mother telling you that she liked you better with your old haircut.
If one person's house lends itself to hosting and has ample oven space for a big bird, go there. Have a surgeon friend? Let them do the carving. Your friend that isn't the greatest cook? Bet they can do the dishes. The more everyone pitches in, the smoother it'll go. Or if no one feels like cooking, you can even order take out. The rule is that there are no rules — figure out what works for the group and tweak it as you go.
Instead of just putting everyone's first names on their place card, the Think Make Share blog suggests using a silly nickname or an inside joke and then having everyone guess who sits at which place. You also could use baby pictures and have people guess who is who, which might be easier with the kids, but much more challenging for the adults. If you're feeling even more crafty, buy some mini-pumpkins and turn them into place card holders.
Create a new Friendsgiving tradition. The weekend before Thanksgiving, head as a group to a nearby pumpkin patch or farm. Stock up on pumpkins large and small. If you're really crafty, work with the kids to carve the pumpkins. If wielding a knife makes you nervous, get some paints and let the kids go crazy. Finish it up and you have festive decorations for your dinner. Bonus: toast the seeds, salt them and serve them with drinks before dinner.
It's a bummer to start the evening with drinks and nothing to eat. BuzzFeed suggests that you have your most reliable friend make the hors d'oeuvres because pre-dinner nibbles are useless if they arrive after the main course. Have a contest for who can come up with the best Thanksgiving-themed appetizers. Bonus points for anyone who also creates something for finicky eaters.
Get together with a few other families to volunteer in your community around Thanksgiving. Even younger kids can help stuff bags in a food pantry, do crafts projects at a nursing home or deliver toys to the kids in the hospital. There are so many ways you and your friends can keep the "thanks" in Thanksgiving (and the "friends" in Friendsgiving).
Speaking of touch football, getting the kids out of the house while the food is cooking can be a win-win for everyone. If you don't love football, try playing hide-and-seek or give them chalk to draw holiday messages on the driveway. This let them burn off some energy and allows whoever is cooking to focus without worrying about being interrupted by toddlers running through the kitchen. Don't forget a change of clothes if they might be playing in the dirt or grass. If the tryptophan in turkey is the number one sedative of Thanksgiving, running around in the fresh air is the second. Both make for a good night sleep later on.
If you are celebrating with the same folks year after year, it can be fun to take your memories of the year, write them down, and put them in a time capsule to be opened the following Thanksgiving. You can also have everyone bring their favorite photo from the year. Want to stay true to the Thanksgiving theme? Ask each person to write down what they are thankful for and stow it away for the year. Store it in a mason jar or have the kids decorate a shoe box, then give it to one family for safekeeping.
Break out the board games, put away the cellphones and have some good old-fashioned fun. Little kids can play Chutes and Ladders while the older ones can enjoy anything from Yahtzee to Scattergories to Risk. If you've got a magic fanatic, ask them to come prepared with some tricks.
From holiday ingredient-infused vodka (think cranberry or cinnamon or ginger) to a pumpkin-spice martini, it's fun to be creative on this one. Try hard apple cider with a shot of Fireball. Or anything with a shot of Fireball. Make sure you create a festive mocktail for the kids too.
Blow the roof off the whole traditional Thanksgiving idea and get a couple of friends to go away for a night or for the whole long weekend. Try an indoor water park or a hotel with a kids' camp and activities. If you can't stand the idea of not eating turkey, most hotels have some variation of Thanksgiving dinner but there's nothing wrong with ordering in some pizzas, too.
Customize a Bingo game by filling the boxes with quirks, characteristics, and life facts about the family members participating in Friendsgiving this year. Keep it clean — the kids don't need to find the person who passed out on the quad in college or who traveled more than 50 miles for sex.
After dinner, turn on the big screen TV or find a white wall and project a kid-friendly movie onto it. If you're having a warm-weather Thanksgiving, do this outside. Or clear out your garage and show the movie there. Have the kids bring their PJs and sleeping bags and let them snuggle in while the grownups enjoy some post dinner drinks.
Odds are there will be plenty of leftovers. Since everyone is contributing to the dinner, it's only fair that everyone get to share and have food for the rest of the weekend. You can let the kids decorate disposable takeout containers (we suggest you keep it to sharpies and craft washi tape) or just make sure everyone brings their own Tupperware.
No one said Friendsgiving has to take place on Thursday night. If you've already got extended-family plans for Thanksgiving dinner, decompress from all the food and drama with your pals the following day by pooling leftovers with your friends for a Friday Friendsgiving brunch. Kids can show up in their pjs — the formal part is so over.
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