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A New Thanksgiving Tradition: Potluck Dinners with Friends

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College students across the country are flocking home for Thanksgiving break in droves—many have already been picked up at the airport. Even the students who still live with their parents and commute to campus are also planning to enjoy huge traditional dinners with plenty of food, family, and fun.

But others are starting a new Thanksgiving tradition this year, or maybe it’s not even quite that new. Students who simply go to college too far from home to justify the pricy travel expenses for just three or four days are staying put to enjoy Thanksgiving dinners with their friends at school.

Thanksgiving Dinner with Friends

Openly admitting that it’s a bit of a cliché, one Florida State University student told Tallahassee.com that his college friends are literally his second family. And although he’s feeling a bit sad that he won’t be travelling from Florida to see his real family in New England, FSU’s Dante Disabatino is remaining positive that his new “tradition” will be a fun one.

Considering that his Christmas break will fall just two weeks after Thanksgiving, a common schedule at many colleges across the country, the FSU junior knows that he’ll be home shortly, another fact that makes his “alternative” holiday celebration even more bearable. Another added bonus? Going to the incredibly popular FSU vs. UF football game on the Saturday after Thanksgiving—the two Florida state universities are longtime football rivals.

Even though a turkey dinner with friends probably won’t be quite as fancy as what some students will be experiencing back home, it most likely means far less holiday stress than most formal family events. The fact that classes won’t be in session also offers an opportunity to relax or prepare for upcoming finals.

Quickly Plan a Thanksgiving Potluck

If you’re staying at school for the holiday—or even if you’re not—a potluck dinner is the easiest way to ensure everyone gets fed without causing anyone to spend a fortune. A few suggestions:

1. Estimate how many people there will be. Even if you’re off by a few people, you need an idea to work with.

2. Choose a meeting spot that has enough room to accommodate everyone, such as a common area in a residence hall or someone’s off-campus apartment.

3. Write a rough draft of traditional Thanksgiving foods like turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, as well as any of the guests’ favorite dishes.

4. The turkey will most likely be the most expensive item on the menu, so a good way to go about this is ask everyone to contribute a few dollars to the “turkey pot.” To make things even easier, you can purchase a pre-cooked turkey or turkey breast that only requires heating up from a supermarket or restaurant. This will take a lot of time and effort out of actually cooking a turkey.

5. Once the turkey is taken care of, ask the guests to select which other item they will be responsible for bringing to the potluck dinner. Everyone can sign up to bring something. Just like the turkey, many traditional side dishes are available pre-cooked for a reasonable price—there’s no need to aim for Martha Stewart-like perfection here!

6. If you don’t have easy access to real dishes and silverware, there’s no shame in using paper plates and plastic utensils. Visit a local dollar store, and you might even find paper products decorated with fall foliage, turkeys or Pilgrims.

So while it’s true that a Thanksgiving dinner with your college friends will be different than the holiday meals you grew accustomed to back home, it’s still possible to have a lot of fun and make plenty of memories in the process!

You may also like …

College Guide to Spending Thanksgiving Alone

Prepare Yourself: 10 Things to Expect During Thanksgiving Break


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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