Change has a way of creeping into all areas of life — even close-knit family traditions.
Jill Robertson and her husband, Matt, saw this happen to their Thanksgiving over the years, as his huge family branched out and saw the loss of its matriarchs. Thus, the year his mother died — making the holiday season decidedly different than it had been — the St. Joseph couple decided to begin a new tradition in the form of a “Friendsgiving.”
Now a decade old, this Thanksgiving they share with their friends hasn’t replaced the traditional Thanksgiving they share with their family. But in their world, it has become a huge holiday in its own right.
“It’s a way to get all our friends together in one area and say ‘I’m thankful for you,’” Robertson said. “And they’re all thankful we have this gathering.”
She said the event started small and has grown over the years to a typical attendance of 35 or 40 people. It usually takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and — given that most people have just had the traditional turkey meal — her Friendsgiving group opts for Italian.
Another tradition they’ve incorporated is tag football, and as attendance has increased, so has the number of players.
“Over the years, we’ve had to add a third football team,” Robertson said, adding that another annual tradition is snapping a group photo of all the participants.
She also noted that one reason the Friendsgiving group has grown is that as they’ve grown up, their kids have started inviting their own friends.
“I think the football is what the kids look forward to, and the adults look forward to the spaghetti,” Robertson said.
She is the one who makes the spaghetti and meatballs, with everyone else bringing another Italian dish to share. Group texts do the trick for keeping everyone informed on who is bringing what, as well as on who will be in attendance.
For anyone else interested in adding a Friendsgiving to their holiday traditions, Robertson encouraged giving it a try as a way to embrace friends and show gratitude for them. And as for her own tradition, she sees the possibility of it continuing for decades to come.
“As long as people will come, we will have it,” she said. “It’s just one of my favorite days of the year.”