Between 2007 and 2010, a sweep of murders were reported across a number of tiny towns and villages in the Philippines. The killings all took place in bars, and more specifically, in karaoke bars. Reports connected the dots of these cases to two things: lots of booze, and the dogmatic Sinatra ballad, “My Way.”
No relation could be drawn to gangs or drugs. No man was killing another to defend the honor of his family. People were stabbed, shot or beaten to death just for singing the song, slightly off key, or for adding a riff where another found it sacrilegious. As the story spread, bars banned the song from their karaoke selections. Singing “My Way” any other way but how the bar crowd wanted it sung was a drunkenly crooned death wish.
The holidays are nearly here, plump with stress and over-expectations. At what other time in the year do you consider making Russian Dolls out of various-sized birds? Create a mini-Bath & Body Works candle display in your living room? Or propose marriage like you’re one of those turtleneck-loving guys from the diamond store commercials? It’s inevitable that even those most committed to not caring about the holidays will catch themselves caring. Probably whistling that song from the Coca-Cola holiday commercials, too. I’m already doing it.
But that’s just good old commercialism for you, and we know its jig by now. Let’s not forget, traditions can play a nasty part when it comes to our relationship with the holidays. If you’ve ever gotten caught miming the words to “Grace” at your family’s dinner table, you know what I’m talking about. And that’s why relief is so badly needed around this time, when expectations are high and turkeys are stuffed with the spirits of our great-grandmothers.
That’s why we need Friendsgiving.
By rule, Friendsgiving is free of traditions and about 95% free of stress and expectations. While some participants see it as an opportunity to mash their family’s favorite dishes and homemade songs with those of their friends’, these are the gatherings most likely to end in bloodshed, tears, or more passive forms of aggression. You know how no one — besides a significant other, maybe — really cares to watch home videos of you as a child? It’s the same with your family’s Thanksgiving carols. Leave the past out of Friendsgiving, or be prepared to withstand the same cold stares that are given to your uncle whenever he makes sexually suggestive comments about breaking the wishbone.
Because it commits a sort of hit and run on traditions, Friendsgiving is a holiday for renegades. And misfits too broke to make it back home. Yet even though it is outside the law of customs, it still has to abide by a few rules.
One that I always aim to enforce is a 3:1 weight ratio of booze to food.
But the rest is up to you: Eat with your elbows on the table. With your ankles on the table. Challenge the cranberry sauce to a Sisqo shakedown. Lock yourself in the bathroom and practice turkey gobbling (especially effective to do this while the bird is getting carved). Wear a period costume, wear your pajamas, wear nothing and ask guests to write which of your body parts they are most thankful for. Project Last of the Mohicans on the wall, and compose poems to Daniel Day Lewis on the tablecloth using stray turkey feathers dipped in cherry cordial.
Essentially, everything that is supposed to happen at your family’s Thanksgiving must specifically not happen at Friendsgiving. A twenty-five pound “young” turkey? Friendsgiving goes for the two turkey legs on special that day. Maybe an assortment of chicken nuggets, chix-less nuggets, and imitation crab, too.
Twelve hours on a bus, sitting next to someone with intestinal issues or a love for blasting Nickelback is a standard part of family Thanksgiving. But Friendsgiving keeps it much more local.
Family Thanksgiving always starts at 1’o-clock sharp? Friendsgiving doesn’t even give a time!
At family Thanksgiving, everyone is required to say one thing they are thankful for before they’re allowed to eat. But Friendsgiving doesn’t think itself better than any other day of gluttonous consumption. Be as thankful or non-thankful as you want, it says!
Though the thing is, you’ll wind up full of thanks at Friendsgiving. Because not only do you have friends, you have friends who understand that a day off from traditions is the golden ticket to seasonal cheer. And if you have a family somewhere, celebrating in their usual way with lots of grace and cinnamon-scented candles, there’s even more reason for thanks. Because somewhere, a whole table full of people is missing you, if only to act as the face of hope when your oldest cousin and former Toastmasters president makes her annual speech on the sadness of single people.
But more, much more than this, Friendsgiving makes you thankful that no one will want to kill you for doing it all your way. Even if that means getting drunk and singing a butchered version of Sinatra in the entirely wrong key.