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Tuesday, November 30, 2021
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Inclusive Friendsgiving: How & Why to Gather Friends with Disabilities

There’s the family you’re born into and the family you choose. Close friends become our second family, and perhaps especially so in our disability community. Because of this special bond, we often want to celebrate the holidays together. And this type of celebration is legit! “Friendsgiving” is typically held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, but you could host a festive gathering anytime during the holiday season.

Importance of Friends with Disabilities

Two studies conducted at the University of Washington explored the impact of friendships among people with disabilities (with survey respondents specifically with blindness, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis (MS), post-polio syndrome and spinal cord injury. The study reported that people with physical disabilities feel a special connection with friends who have the same or similar disability, such as people they meet in support groups. And respondents with more friends with disabilities said they were happier with their lives overall than respondents with fewer friends having disabilities, and even had a better quality of life.

One participant with MS shared, “I think it’s a matter of feeling less self-conscious around [other people with MS] because they don’t see you the way other people see you.” Another person, who is blind, said about her friends who are also blind: “We all immediately share a common bond, and have an understanding and camaraderie with each other right away.”

Friendsgiving party spread
credit: Food Network

The “Give” in Friendsgiving 

A special bond among friends is definitely something to be thankful for and celebrate. Plus, a Friendsgiving party can satisfy your hunger for festive fun and indulgent food with your favorite peeps!

But, what if you could change an alarming statistic through the power of friendship too? 1-in-6 kids in America today face hunger; and some of which are also impacted by disability. You can help by hosting a Friendsgiving celebration in support of No Kid Hungry. Plus, their resources can actually simplify your party planning. Just sign-up to host a Friendsgiving, plan your event with their handy-dandy checklist, fundraise with mobile tools and toast to a meaningful meal with friends.

If fundraising is not normally your thing, remember that people’s giving spirit is typically amped up during the holidays. In fact, many of your loved ones are looking for a way to make a difference and, so, your Friendsgiving fundraising effort may be a great fit. Win-win!

chocolate turkey
credit: Fannie May

Friendsgiving Menu Choices

Sharing is Caring

Intimidated to prepare a full Thanksgiving spread? Before you decide to slice the turkey, cut yourself some slack! A potluck is a great way to share the workload and, ultimately, the meal itself. Assign guests a food item, like stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, dessert, appetizer or beverage. It is customary for the host to cook the turkey and gravy unless you have a foodie friend eager to tackle the lion share of cooking (aka the bird).

Turnkey Turkey

If you want to spend quality time with your guests rather than cooking, just order a complete Thanksgiving meal. Consider your options: food delivery companies (Hello FreshBlue Apron, etc.), grocery stores (Whole Foods), chain eateries (Honey Baked HamBoston Market) and food retailers (Sprouts Farmers Markets, etc.).

Hostess with the Mostess

If you’re a culinary wizard, whip up the whole meal yourself. While most may think this is biting off more than you can chew (self-included… I’m all about friends pitching in), it’s possible especially if you select somewhat easier recipes.

Birdie Brunch

You don’t have to follow tradition. Instead of a formal dinner, how about a casual breakfast, lunch or, better yet, brunch. Brunch is the most delicious meal of the week — the perfect union of breakfast and lunch dishes. If you’re hosting Friendsgiving the weekend following Thanksgiving day, ask guests to bring a potluck brunch item using their Thanksgiving leftovers.

Make Reservations

Some restaurants host Friendsgiving-themed menus and/or events. If you love the concept of gathering friends but are not up for hosting, just make reservations. For example, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant serves up inventive renditions of classic Thanksgiving dishes paired with Cooper’s Hawk Wines. Family-style eateries, like Buca Di Beppo, are a great option; as are tapas-style places that specialize in sharable dishes.

Menu Mix-Up

If you plan to have your fill of turkey on Thanksgiving day, consider serving alternative dishes on Friendsgiving. For example, pork tenderloin, lasagna, salmon or quinoa-stuffed butternut squash. Or, stick to party classics… tacos, pizza, burgers, etc.

Blended Group

Your group of friends is a unique blend. Channel that same blended concept with a turducken. This Louisiana dish is a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck and further stuffed into a deboned turkey! Come on… you know your friends will gobble up this dish (and the tongue-twister word itself).

Backyard Bash

Host a laidback Friendsgiving similar to a BBQ by deep-frying the turkey. Always use caution when using a turkey fryer. Serve with corn on the cob (instead of corn pudding), oven-roasted fries (instead of mashed potatoes) and steamed green beans (instead of green bean casserole).

Thanksgiving photo props
credit: Amazon

Festive Fun

Here are ways to have festive Friendsgiving fun at your gathering:

  • Turkey Shoot: Order Friendsgiving-themed photo props (as pictured above) to shoot the best selfies!
  • Turkey-Lovin’ Pigskin: You might watch a football game on Thanksgiving afternoon but, for your Friendsgiving, tackle fun head-on with a game of touch football in the yard or a video game version.
  • Game (Hen) On: If the harvest colors present an inviting outdoor ambiance, plan for tailgate-style games (well, feathergate). Lawn games like cornhole, horseshoes and others add friendly competition. Or, stay cozy inside making warm Friendsgiving memories playing board games. Gaming may seem simple, but this classic pastime allows friends to interact, laugh and even learn something new about each other.
  • Get Wacky: Need to use up leftover Halloween candy? Stuff a turkey piñata and let everyone have a whack!

turkey piñata
credit: Party City

Gobble Up Extra Helpings 

Special touches make gatherings memorable. Consider…

  • Interactive Stations: Try a DIY candy apple bar (pictured below). Or, a Thanksgiving-themed beverage station using cranberry juice or apple cider instead of orange juice. Add garnishes of fresh fruit and herb sprigs.
  • Decorations: Order Friendsgiving-specific décor, like our finds on Amazon.
  • Leftovers: Have plastic containers ready so you can send guests home with a second helping.
  • Parting Gift: Bid your friends farewell with a keepsake, like a turkey-shaped chocolate.

credit: Craftberrybush.com

Pandemic-Friendly Friendsgiving Tips

It is important to remember that we are currently still in a pandemic. Thus, precautions may be needed to ensure a safe Friendsgiving to avoid the spread of coronavirus, especially since some people with disabilities and chronic illness are at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Here are a few pointers:

  1. The “more the merrier” may not be applicable this season. The CDC recommends gatherings remain small, with no more than 10 people when possible.
  2. Include friends that you already safely engage with. Consider asking guests to get a COVID-19 test to ensure that no one is ill.
  3. Dine outdoors if weather permits.
  4. Ask friends to use hand sanitizer when entering, wear masks, wash hands regularly and sit distanced.
  5. Opt for a virtual Friendsgiving. Online gatherings can still be joyful!

Like this content? Consider reading…

Part of this article originally appeared on DateNightGuide.com.

Nancy DeVaulthttp://www.AmeriDisability.com
Nancy is the managing editor of AmeriDisability. She is an award-winning storyteller passionate about health and happiness.

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