Nov 28, 2019 - Technology

The rise of Friendsgiving

Data: Evite and Google; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios
Data: Evite and Google; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

More than half a million people have been invited to a Friendsgiving party this year, and searches for Friendsgiving ideas have tripled since 2015, according to Evite and Google Trends data.

Why it matters: The traditional Thanksgiving celebration is changing. That reflects broader transformations across America: booming cities and social media, a growing foreign-born population, delayed marriage and family building, and young adults relying on "urban tribes" of friends instead of kin.

By the numbers: Friendsgiving — at least in name — is more common in urban areas.

  • The top areas for Friendsgiving Google searches include Boston, New York, Philadelphia, San Jose and Chicago.
  • The top cities for Friendsgivings according to Evite data are Chicago, Houston and L.A.
  • While the number of people invited to Friendsgiving gatherings has risen, the average size of each party has stayed the same — at 21 people, according to Evite.
  • Most are potluck style, with almost a quarter of hosts asking guests to sign up to bring something.
  • The fare doesn't always have to be traditional either, etiquette expert Lizzie Post told the Atlantic.

The big picture: According to Merriam-Webster, the use of "Friendsgiving" to describe an event that merges friends with Thanksgiving started around 2007 — and the coining of the word may itself have helped to popularize and commercialize the idea.

Friendsgivings for many are just a pre-party to a still family-centric holiday, but the trend also mirrors shifting lifestyles and demographics in the U.S.

  • Urbanization, delayed marriage and delayed childbearing over the past few decades have reshaped social connections and personal obligations. Many young, single adults move to cities where they work, make friends, pay off college debt, date on apps and wait longer to settle down.
  • Journalist Ethan Watters has argued that tight-knit friend groups of these young adults — or ""urban tribes" — are replacing family. Some city-dwelling adults may prefer to spend Thanksgiving with their tribe rather than relatives.
  • "Lots of people who live in cities moved away for a reason," University of Toronto professor and urban theorist Richard Florida told Axios. "There is a pull and a push... maybe they 'can’t' go home" for Thanksgiving.

The immigrant share of the population has also risen significantly since the 1970s. Several Friendsgiving participants who work at Axios or responded to an Axios Instagram question said sharing the iconic American holiday with friends can provide a special experience for foreign-born guests who might not have the same points of reference.

  • One person first started attending Friendsgiving while studying in the U.S. Now, they "keep doing it even though I'm back in Europe."

Between the lines: Friendsgiving is not just for Millennials. Some Gen Xers and Boomers tell Axios they were hosting and attending such gatherings in the '80s and '90s, without the catchy name.

What they're saying: Friendsgiving goers told Axios why Friendsgivings matter:

  • "Have friends who have been cast out of their family because of their lifestyles."
  • "Chosen family can be stronger than blood for some. It’s a great alternative for folks who struggle around the holidays."
  • "Now that we live so far from family it's replaced the traditional family celebration."
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