Thanksgiving is a few weeks away and preparations are already happening! However, for many Latinas, going home to celebrate with family is not a possibility. According to a 2007 study by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), Latinas are moving out of their parents' home sooner than Latino men for education and career purposes and are less likely to return home.
Since moving away from El Paso, Texas, 11 years ago, I have only gone back home for Thanksgiving twice to celebrate with my family while living in Los Angeles and now in Dallas. With Christmas just around the corner, traveling home twice within a month span is usually not financially feasible. With the increase in airfare and additional seasonal baggage fees, traveling during the holiday season isn’t cheap!
However, several years back my friends (who also live away from family) and I decided to start an annual Friendsgiving tradition. Friendsgiving is a Thanksgiving tradition that encourages friends to celebrate the holiday together so they’re not alone. See how Friendsgiving can feel like home even when you’re not celebrating with the family:
Cook a family recipe.
The concept of Friendsgiving is that everyone brings a dish to share with friends for Thanksgiving dinner. No one is responsible for the entire meal — thankfully! This is a great opportunity to cook a family recipe so it feels like you’re home with the familia. Instead of pumpkin pie, your family makes pumpkin empanadas or a traditional dish like chile con queso. Make this dish for Friendsgiving so you can share this tradition with friends while feeling connected to your family at the same time.
Before dinner, ask your friends to share what they’re thankful for.
It’s easy to want to dig in right away and eat all the delicious food laid out on the table. Before you eat, though, a nice Friendsgiving tradition is to gather your friends in a circle and ask everyone to share what they’re thankful for. It may seem cheesy, but in the spirit of the season, this simple exercise can be heartwarming. One year my friend shared how thankful she was for our annual Friendsgiving celebration, as she felt that we gave her a new place to call home now. It was a perfect message to start off dinner and the holiday season.
Plan post-dinner activities.
After you’ve stuffed your tummy, a food coma typically sets in. To combat the sleepiness, plan activities to keep everyone awake and festive. This can include playing board games, singing holiday music, etc. Activities not only keep people awake, but they also keep everyone engaged, which will be especially important for anyone feeling homesick that day.
Share a family tradition or ritual.
I was born and raised in Texas. Like any good Texan girl, football is a huge part of our culture, and watching the Dallas Cowboys play is a family tradition. When I lived in Los Angeles, I made it a point to share my love of my team and tradition with my friends. Luckily, now that I live in Dallas, I don't have to convince my friends to root for my boys!
If you have a family tradition or ritual other than food, share the experience with your friends. Do you watch the Macy’s parade or decorate the Christmas tree on Thanksgiving night? Whatever your family tradition is, include it as part of your Friendsgiving celebration.
Don’t forget to contact your family.
You may be celebrating with friends, but taking a few minutes to contact your family is icing on the cake (or whipped topping on your pumpkin pie in this instance!). Two years ago, I Skyped my family so I could say hello to everyone and vice versa. I loved seeing what everyone was up to — what they were cooking, who was visiting, the decorations, etc. At the same time, my family enjoyed seeing me and my friends celebrate in our own way. It made all of us tear up that even though we were hundreds of miles apart, we were still thinking of each other and keeping traditions alive.
This year if you’re unable to spend Thanksgiving with your family, gather some friends and start your own Friendsgiving tradition. There are many ways to make the holiday feel like you're celebrating at home. If you’re lucky like me, you’ll start to create a new “family” in the city you live in. And that is always something to be thankful for!
Sasha Monik Moreno is a Founding Creator and career and education blogger. When she's not sharing her advice on Vivala.com, you can find her at themodernlatina.com.