Giovanna Orecchio arrived at SeaTac on a chilly November morning, her duffel packed with cooking utensils, Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and precisely three teaspoons of cinnamon—anything that could make or break the Thanksgiving meal she planned to cook at the rental house where she and a few best friends would soon spend the holiday. It’s not Orecchio’s first Friendsgiving. But she’s got more company than ever.

Google searches for the platonic holiday are on track to reach record highs this year—in part because our first post-vaccination holiday season isn’t exactly the return to normal we hoped for. Kids under five still can’t get shots. Inoculation rates drop precipitously the further you get from Jeff Duchin. “Over the river and through the woods” sounds less like a nostalgic jingle and more like the bare minimum effort required to have a decent time this November.

Friendsgiving provides a welcome alternative for people looking to take a food-fueled vacation (a la Orecchio), chosen family building new memories, high school friends home for the holidays (“The Boys Are Back in Town” should be played at least once, per custom). Or just about anyone looking for something to celebrate this year.

Thinking about joining the ranks? Here are tips for making your Friendsgiving a tradition worth starting.

Embrace Your Differences

You didn’t all grow up eating the same mashed potato recipe. Use this to your advantage. Local author Chuck McKeever’s friend group uses the holiday “as an opportunity to make food that represents our hometowns or our heritage or both”—turkey winds up next to adobo, lumpia, and “big meaty” casseroles. Skill differences also come into play here: If a serious home chef is down to handle the cooking, others can pick up the dessert, drink ingredients, or playlist. Ask that guy who always gleefully volunteers to carve the turkey: Things go more smoothly when people get to do what they love.

Start New Traditions

No gods, no masters. “Last year we made a stuffing that heavily involved burgers from Dick’s,” says Seattle musician Matthew Boerner, “and it really felt like friendship.”

Keep the (Good) Old Ones Alive

Some traditions are worth holding onto. Orecchio’s friend group allows each attendee some nostalgic non-negotiables—stuffing, mac and cheese—that make the holiday feel special.

Make It a Trip

Thanksgiving’s best-kept secret: For those who already have Thursday and Friday off (maybe Wednesday, if you’re lucky), it’s the easiest way to get a weeklong break from work without using all your vacation days. Orecchio and her friends always turn it into a true holiday—none of them live in Santa Fe, where they’ll spend the day in a rental cooking a quarter-turkey she already reserved with a nearby food co-op. Their past trips north of the border have also been fruitful, and pretty cheap: “It’s not Thanksgiving in Canada, right?"

Welcome Mistakes

Gaffes are bound to happen. Someone will triple the cinnamon in the pumpkin pie (hence the pre-portioned spices in Orecchio's luggage). It may take you four grocery store trips to get the right type of yams for sweet potato casserole (“That has been a recurring joke,” Orecchio says, “that we just were mentally incapable of purchasing the correct potatoes”). Maybe someone will drop the whole damn turkey on the floor of your Airbnb. Grit your teeth and remember: Those slip-ups will become the best stories. Eventually.

Give Thanks

The prefix may have been cheekily replaced, but it’s still a crucial component of the holiday. Planning the event together provides some built-in time to appreciate each other’s strengths, embrace each other’s quirks, and show your pals how much you love them in a really hands-on way. “It’s field day for friends," Orecchio says. "You all have to figure out how to jump together in the potato sack race.”

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