By Amanda Huffman
Guest Blogger

For military families, it might be challenging or downright impossible to get home for the holidays. Also, some families choose to make the trek home for Christmas but not for Thanksgiving. My family has spent many holidays away from our extended family. At times, it’s just the four of us celebrating, which is fun. But celebrating with friends (Friendsgiving) is also a great way to enjoy the holiday and, as an added bonus, gathering with a group helps spread out the amount of work needed to be done. 

1. Invite Your Friends!

The first step is to invite your friends to join your family for Thanksgiving.

Sometimes it can feel tricky to invite people over for a special holiday. Some people have their own holiday traditions, and some may not be interested in celebrating with friends. It can also be discouraging to invite friends over only to find out they have other plans. One way to broach the topic without having to face rejection is to start the conversation with “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” If the answer is, “We don’t have plans,” it is an open door to invite them to celebrate with you. 

2. Be a Good Host… or Not

If the event is your idea, but you’re not prepared to host, there are ways to make it happen anyway, but planning can be more complicated. Don’t despair. It doesn’t have to be a grand affair. Remember that even in a small space there is room to host. You might have to use TV trays or bring in folding tables and though it might be tight, you can do it. 

Another challenge with hosting is feeling you need to cook the turkey. But depending on how many people are coming over, this task doesn’t have to be overwhelming. For example, a small turkey breast can be cooked in a crockpot with minimal effort. You could also throw out the whole idea of the traditional meal and make something you and your family enjoy. One year, my family had homemade pizza for Thanksgiving. Everyone was happy, especially me, because I didn’t spend all day in the kitchen and instead we spent time as a family making pizza. 

3. Share Food Preparation

It is best to start planning as early as possible. This will allow you and your friends to create a menu and divide up what each person will bring. Someone may love cooking and want to provide the turkey. First, pick what foods you and the other people attending want to have at the dinner. Then find a way to break it up. A great free tool you can use is SignUpGenius to help fill in all the dishes needed. Or if it is a small group you can just divide the tasks among each family attending.

4. It Is About Being Together

Thanksgiving is really about being together and remembering all we have to be thankful for. Spending time with others to celebrate Thanksgiving can be a special gift and can make the holidays not feel so lonely. 

At our last assignment, we didn’t have the opportunity to spend time with friends at Thanksgiving, but this year, we are excited to celebrate with them. 

It doesn’t matter so much how everything looks or what you serve.. I’m reminding myself and you that we will create memories that last, and that is what is most important.

Amanda is a military veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer who served on a combat deployment with the Army in Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career in the Space Force. Amanda is the host of the Women of the Military podcast. There she shares the stories of women who have served or are serving in the military. The podcast has over 200 episodes and over 100K downloads. Amanda is also an author and has published two books. Her first book, Women of the Military tells the stories of 28 military women who served in the military. Her second book, A Girl’s Guide to Military Serviceis the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Winner for Teen Non Fiction. It is a guide for high school girls considering military service to help them build a strong foundation for their future career. She also works as a freelance writer and has been featured in a number of military publications including The War, Military Families Magazine, Clearance Jobs, Military Spouse Magazine, and more. 

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