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Not all Michiganders get to celebrate Thanksgiving with their family. Here is how one Michigan woman decided to celebrate anyway. 

MICHIGAN—Thanksgiving wasn’t always a day of turkey dinners and family fun for Megan Hadd. 

It was 2015 and Hadd, then just 21 and living alone in a small apartment in Grand Rapids, had returned to Michigan after two years of living in New York. Her grandmother, who had typically hosted Thanksgiving celebrations for part of her family, had started spending the winter months in the warmer climate of Florida. 

As far as the Thanksgiving celebrations went, there were no longer any traditions in her family. So, Hadd decided to make her own. 

“I didn’t have anybody to do Thanksgiving with and I got sick of it,” Hadd told The ‘Gander. 

Hadd started hosting a Friendsgiving event. It included friends she’d had for years, people she’d recently become friendly with, members of her platoon in the National Guard. She said that over the three years she hosted the events she would sometimes have up to 15 people crammed into her apartment. 

“I got super depressed during the holidays and my mental health took a severe dip, and this was a way to counteract that and still have a sense of family,” she said. 

Friendsgiving—a replacement for the typical, family-oriented affair on Thanksgiving Day—has become an increasingly popular trend among millenials in recent years. Sometimes it’s not a replacement for the annual holiday, but rather an addition to the turkey-filled day. While the word started to grow in usage around 2007, according to Merriam-Webster, the concept really began to grow as recently as 2013

The decision to have her own, unique Thanksgiving celebration was easy enough, Hadd said. She lived alone and didn’t have to contend with roommates who might not appreciate the racket caused by more than a dozen people in one small room, and she didn’t need to ask for permission. Even if the apartment was small, Hadd said she was the only one of her friends that really had the space to host such an event. 

Most of the other stuff came together with a little help from her friends. Hadd said the group would use a card table to put out food, and everyone would bring a t-shirt to use as hot pads because, true to the form of a 21-year-old living on her own, there were many household items Hadd didn’t have. 

Hadd would provide the turkey and other main dishes, but everyone else would bring a dish to share, as well. 

“It was so much fun,” Hadd reflected. “We would just blast Christmas music and have a good dinner. Everybody would chat and hang out. Sometimes we’d play board games. Sometimes we’d play like Jackbox. 

“Once (dinner) was done, I would get out all of my Christmas decorations and we would all decorate my apartment after dinner because Thanksgiving was over. It’s okay [to put up Christmas decorations] after Thanksgiving.”

Hadd said sometimes she and her friends would make their own ornaments and hang them from her tree, which helped, she said, because she wasn’t in a place financially to buy herself ornaments. 

They also started a tradition of decorating a large poster for each year, with each person writing a message on it in the form of a Christmas card. 

“We would just have a huge party and listen to Christmas music and decorate for Christmas,” Hadd said.

Photo courtesy of Megan Hadd
Friendsgiving decorations used one year by Megan Hadd. She said the tree skirt and stockings were handed down by her great-great-grandmother.

Hadd said the part was a great way of celebrating the holidays without stress. She wasn’t the only person at the events that didn’t have Thanksgiving traditions to fall back on, and while some of those who did have family gatherings to attend, they weren’t always the most fun of affairs. 

One of her friends and the friend’s husband couldn’t afford a Thanksgiving dinner, and while there were things like state assistance and other programs that would help them find the resources for one, Hadd said they expressed an appreciation for a night when they wouldn’t have to worry about how they’d be putting food on the table. 

“They loved having somewhere to go where they didn’t have to worry about food or being alone, and to get that sense of family since they really didn’t go to see their families,” she said. 

Hadd is now 28. She’s married and has an infant son. The days of the Friendsgiving parties are over, and she says she enjoys having a more structured Thanksgiving day each year with her husband and his family. But she still has fond memories of her small apartment, every inch of which was filled with friends, joking around and just having a relaxing time away from the stressors of life. 

“It was a very special time,” Hadd said. “I think it was kind of more special to me at that time because I was dealing with not having a family.I think I appreciated that a little bit more because I was young and I didn’t have a family and that really helped to ground me, so I do look back and miss it sometimes. Just because I very much needed it at that point in my life.”