Every year for the past five or so, the Emily Post Institute—long considered the leading authority on matters of manners and courtesy—fields at least one or two etiquette questions about “Friendsgiving.” Usually they come from people in their 20s and 30s, says Lizzie Post, the co-president of the institute and the eponymous etiquette authority’s great-great-granddaughter. The advice seekers are often anxious about exactly how to host a Friendsgiving party, a Thanksgiving-themed meal for their close friends.
When, for example, is a Friendsgiving supposed to take place? (The weekend before Thanksgiving or the weekend prior, usually.) Is it an imposition to ask everyone to gather for a Thanksgiving meal a week or so before they’ll have another? (Not necessarily, but Post recommends deviating a little from the traditional Thanksgiving menu to avoid stealing the real Thanksgiving’s thunder.) And what’s the most polite and egalitarian way to organize a Friendsgiving? (Hands down, potluck-style, with dishes and supplies assigned via a Google spreadsheet. “From everything from organizing parties to lending out camping equipment, shared spreadsheets are amazing,” Post says.)
The Google Trends graph of the word Friendsgiving—indicating how often people have Googled the term over the past nearly six years—looks like a row of increasingly menacing icicles flipped upside down: From 2004 to 2012, virtually nobody was scouring the internet for the term, but a tiny nub of search interest in November 2013 gave way to a small spike in November 2014, followed by exponentially intensifying spikes the next three Novembers. Food publications such as Chowhound and Taste of Home have recently released Friendsgiving host guides; almost 960,000 posts pop up when you search Instagram for the hashtag #friendsgiving. At press time, some 3,000 of those had been added in the past 24 hours.
Post and others I spoke to for this story agree that Friendsgiving seems to have evolved in recent years from a sort of ad hoc Thanksgiving replacement (implemented when people found themselves far away from family on the holiday but near friends) to a common in-addition-to-Thanksgiving event, one that’s exclusively for friends. In other words, Friendsgiving has become a widely celebrated American holiday in its own right—and while it’s hard to know in real time what cultural shifts or forces have led to the rise of Friendsgiving, there are a few compelling theories as to why you may be seeing the term pop up again and again in Venmo transactions this week.