‘Friendsgiving’ celebrations on the rise among college-aged millennials

Rachel Stevenson

Kent State senior psychology major Hannah Petrosky will be celebrating Thanksgiving twice this year: once with family over the holiday break and once with friends in a potluck style meal deemed “Friendsgiving.”

Petrosky hosted a Friendsgiving meal at her apartment Saturday with 11 guests, and she said she feels the celebration — also commonly referred to as a “Mocksgiving” — allows students to feel a sense of home in Kent over the holidays and relax in spite of academic obligations.

“We are so wrapped up in our own things a lot of the time, that it’s good to all come together and slow down for a second,” she said. “With finals and people trying to wrap up the semester before they go home, it’s nice to relax and have your friends over.”

As the “Friendsgiving” trend continues to grow among colleged-aged millennials, students often host such celebration as a means of seeking genuine social connections with peers and developing their own unique holiday traditions.

Rhonda Richardson, a professor in human development and family studies who specializes in parent and child relationships and positive youth development, said the popularity of “Friendsgiving” celebrations within the past three years could be attributed to millennials seeking face-to-face engagement with peers.

“Millennials depend a lot more on technology for their interactions, and so maybe that’s the reason things like getting together for a meal has a lot of appeal,” she said.

Millennials and their parents differ greatly in their use of social media in building relationships, according to Richardson,which could cause the younger generations to seek face-to-face social connections through gatherings such as “Friendsgiving.”

According to a study conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics, 83 percent of millennials reported having a Facebook account while nearly 88 percent of all college students reported using Facebook to connect with friends.

Richardson said compared to older generations, social media use plays a key role in the meaningfulness of social interactions among Millennials as opposed to their parents who did not grow up building relationships and friendships online.

“I think they’re just looking for face-to-face connections and opportunities to build connection and tradition and find meaning in their friendships beyond what can be found through connecting over technology,” Richardson said.

Richardson also said “Friendsgiving” celebrations are a way for students to express independence and freedom as young adults while practicing some adult responsibilities like preparing a meal.

“I think it has to do with the realities and context of the lives of young millennials. They don’t have a lot of other obligations,” Richardson said. “Your time is your own, so you’ve got the time and resources to be able to do that. Whereas older generations have other obligations.”

Richardson said she attributes these differences to the delayed age of marriage and having children seen in millennials.

According to a study conducted by Bentley University, marriage rates are shifting. The median age for marriage among millennials is 27 for women and 29 for men, which has increased from 20 for women and 23 for men in the ’60s.

“Delaying the age in which you’re taking on the roles of taking a life partner and perhaps having children … this sort of becomes another way to begin doing some of those adult behaviors,” Richardson said.

However, Petrosky said for her, cooking a “Friendsgiving” meal was a way to take a break from daily stress and responsibilities and enjoy the comforts of home while being away at school.

“In high school, you come home everyday and eat dinner with your family. But in college, you are so much more on your own that you don’t have that family support all the time so I feel like getting together with potlucks like this makes you feel at home,” she said.

Petrosky said gatherings like these also help students combat homesickness during the holidays by bringing friends together.

Richardson agreed that if students who traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving are staying in Kent for the holiday, “Friendsgiving” celebrations can also act to fulfill social traditions associated with the holiday

“It gives them another place to be with people so that they’re not alone on a day that — traditionally in our culture — is about gathering with family,” she said.

Richardson said that while the trend continues to grow among millennials, she believes “Friendsgiving” celebrations are most common among a segment of the millennial demographic.

“It may particularly apply to the privileged, college-enrolled portion of that millennial population,” she said.

She said she predicts only a segment of the millennial population celebrates “Friendsgiving” due to the access of resources such as food, friends to celebrate with and a home to gather in.

For Petrosky, “Friendsgiving” is not the end of holiday gatherings with friends this year.

“We were talking about doing a ‘Friendsgiving’ potluck for Christmas. but instead of turkey and mashed potatoes, doing ham and Christmas foods,” she said.

Petrosky said holiday gatherings help to create a heart-warming atmosphere where students can come together to strengthen their friendships and give thanks for each other.

“While they’re beginning to separate from their families on some level, (young adults are) deepening their emotional ties to their friends,” Richardson said. “I think it’s really nice that young people are doing this and finding this as a way to gather with others this holiday season.”

Rachel Stevenson is the residence services reporter, contact her at [email protected].