Thanksgiving is a time for tradition and nostalgia, a time when we look back on the things we’re grateful for and when we engage in our favorite traditions. Some people cook with their family, others watch football, and some people, like me, marathon the Friends Thanksgiving episodes. Beginning from season one, and continuing through all ten seasons, Friends always aired a Thanksgiving episode, and they each had a lot to teach us — about the friends themselves — and about our own lives.
While Friends was far from perfect (how did they never have a single non-white friend, despite living in New York City for over a decade?), at its core, it is about the relationships we build over time. Friends is about the people we love, the ones who love us back, and the chosen families we create. In the characters of Friends many of us see ourselves — or people we know. Other people may not see a world that reflects one they are familiar with, but it provides an escape into the stories of the people on the screen.
Over the course of the series, viewers watched these characters go from people who sort of knew each other, to people who would (and often did) do anything for each other. I came to look forward to the Thanksgiving episode each season, and they are still some of my favorites of the entire series. When we watching the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends, here are just some of the lessons you can learn
1. Love Can Overcome Anything — Including Amputation
In Season 5, “The One With All The Thanksgivings” reveals that Monica cut off Chandler’s pinkie toe during a Thanksgiving in the ‘80s, due to his wicker shoes. But he was able to move past the amputation, and the two wound up married (Why Monica loves Chandler after he fat-shamed her, however, is anyone’s guess.) Monica and Chandler’s love story is one that proves people with a history can find love with each other, even when neither one expects it. Sometimes the one you’ve been looking for has been right there all along.
2. Good Friends Support You, Even If You Fail
Everyone has that one friend (or maybe that friend is you) who find boiling water to be about all the cooking they can handle. In Season 6’s “The One Where Ross Got High,” Rachel is determined to cook a dish for that year’s dinner, only she accidentally combines a shepherd’s pie with an English trifle when pages of the cookbook stick together. Like good friends, everyone pretends to enjoy Rachel’s disastrous dish. Or, in the case of Joey, he didn’t even have to pretend. Your friends will love you even when you fail, and will always try to avoid hurting your feelings. Plus, you’ll always have the jokes about that time you made the worst Thanksgiving dish of all time.
3. Girls Rule, Boys Drool
Season 3’s “The One With the Football” pits the men against the women in a flag football game in the park, though it really pits Ross against Monica in the ultimate case of sibling rivalry. All you have to know about this episode is that the girls won the game, because girls trump boys.
4. Your Soulmate Will Go To Great Lengths For You
True love means making a total fool out of yourself to cheer up the person you care about. Another call back to Season 5, he episode ends with Monica putting a turkey on her head to cheer up Chandler, who can’t help but laugh and finally says those three little words. When your beloved hurts, you do too, and you want to do what you can to make them feel better. It doesn’t necessarily have to involve wearing poultry on your head, though.
5. What Goes Around Really Does Come Around
It was apparent throughout the series that Rachel Green was not very nice in high school. In Season 8’s Thanksgiving episode, “The One With The Rumor,” we meet Brad Pitt’s character Will who is super hot and, unfortunately for Rachel, hates her with the fire of a thousand suns. He was even one of the two members of the “I Hate Rachel Green Fan Club.” The lesson here is that you should be nice to everyone in high school (and life) because you never know when you might need something from them — or they’ll grow up to look like Brad Pitt.
6. You Shouldn't Make Moves On A Friend's SO
In Season 4’s “The One With Chandler In The Box,” Chandler violates the Golden Rule when he kisses Kathy, Joey’s new girlfriend. To make it up to Joey, he spends most of the episode in a box, proving his devotion to his friend. Although their friendship withstands this act of betrayal, not all friendships do.
7. Your Chosen Family Is Family, Too
Thanksgiving is all about spending time with the most important people in your life. For some people, that means dinner with their family of origin. For others, friendsgiving is where it’s at. The friends learn this lesson in the very first season in “The One Where Underdog Gets Away.” When all their respective Thanksgiving plans fall through, they’re left to spend the holiday with each other, starting a yearly tradition. Your chosen family is just as valid as any family of origin you may have, and holidays with friends are some of the best.