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Thank You for Being a Friendsgiving

Honors College students come together for a little food, a little friendship to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Campus News  |  Nov 23, 2016  |  By Jason Scavone
thanksgiving scene

As Steve Martin and John Candy so deftly proved: It’s not always easy to get home to the family in time for Thanksgiving.

For a cadre of Honors College students, though, campus serves as a stand-in when it comes time to get down to the serious business of holiday feasting. The Honors College hosts its third-annual Friendsgiving event Nov. 23 at 5 p.m.

Started two years ago with 50-70 students, Friendsgiving has outgrown the Honors College’s study lounge and will be held for the first year inside the Richard Tam Alumni Center with attendance expected to top 190 students.

“It speaks to so many people,” Honors Student Council President Anna Gingrich said. “When you have a game night, not everybody wants to get together and play board games. But Friendsgiving can draw on a lot of different areas.”

Gingrich has been involved in the organization and planning of all three Friendsgiving events, and it’s one that, as a student whose family is in St. Louis, is near and dear to her heart.

“If we're going to purchase round-trip flights, you have to pick [Christmas], the biggest holiday,” she said.

Students coming to Friendsgiving are encouraged to bring a potluck dish — no small task for dorm-room warriors or commuters with morning classes who have to rush home, then back to campus. But staff refrigerators and a prep kitchen area at Tam help smooth the process.

Like any good Thanksgiving celebration worth its, er, salt, the food doesn’t take a backseat. This year, the Honors College managed to get a sponsor, CenturyLink, for its dessert table. Because a shortage of pie would be downright criminal.

“Food brings people together,” Gingrich said. “It's so focused on the family and being with other people. You get all of these honors kids together, and I hear afterward how much fun they had. How welcome they felt. How cool it was to meet all these new people. It's bringing together of people from all of these different areas and interests. Who doesn't like food-centered events?          “

For students, like Gingrich, who have a long way to go to get home — or international students who can’t get halfway around the world and back in a matter of four days — Friendsgiving is the chance to get a taste of home, or experience something uniquely American. But it’s not strictly a second-choice option for Gingrich.

“I have as an individual been involved with the Honors College ever since I got here. I jumped in and stayed in. [My parents] definitely understand and respect the fact that I choose to be here for this. My parents visited last October. They were like, ‘This is a crazy, awesome thing you guys have going here.’

“While they would love to have me home, this is where I spend my Thanksgiving. This is the home I created for myself."