While many colleges have a week-long fall break around the holidays, those of you who chose to attend school far away from your hometown might realize that hosting a college Thanksgiving meal with your friends is simply a more viable option than going home for Thanksgiving. That, or you've found yourself in a group of friends who seem to fear the idea of going home, or simply can't collaborate with the hectic holiday schedule that their parents have concocted. Regardless of the reason of your first college Thanksgiving, one thing is true — you don't want to forgo partaking in the American tradition based on situations out of your control.
Celebrating the holiday with buddies can be a little daunting, especially if your vision of "making a turkey dinner" is going to the drive-thru of a Boston Market. While you shouldn't be expected to magically transform into Alton Brown overnight, you can still manage to pull off an amazing college feast with the resources you have. Even if your event is a precursor to the actual holiday, it can still turn into a great tradition that helps you bond with your friends, while learning a few important key factors on cooking a delicious meal for the masses.
Here are a few tips to make sure that you have an event to remember, possibly starting a brand new tradition during your college years.
1. Start slow
If you've never cooked a turkey before, you might be a little nervous about getting this legendary main course wrong. And if you're dealing with a tiny oven, or a small kitchen set-up, you might not be able to recreate the Thanksgiving meal you're dreaming of. First thing's first — don't fret.
Round up the size of your party, and estimate about a pound and a half of turkey per person. So if your gathering consists of you and six friends, you obviously won't need a big bird. It's often a bit difficult to even buy a bird that's under 12 pounds, so don't worry about running out of food.
If thoughts of cooking a turkey make you burst into a pile of anxiety, don't be afraid to create your own traditions. Maybe turkey subs (with a bunch of delicious sides) will help make your gathering more unique. Or, maybe you have a friend who'll be willing to take over the task of bird-cooking. Communicate with your party, and get a good vibe as to what everyone expects out of the event, and how they plan to contribute to the big day.
2. Get creative
The best part about starting a new tradition is being able to add your own personal spin on things. Consider creating your own game that focuses around the meal, or starting an annual football game after dessert has been served. Make dinner fun! If your friends are crafty, let them help with some seasonal decorations. Hand turkeys aren't just for children, you know.
3. Figure out which traditions people actually enjoy
Remember the scene in the legendary Friends episode, where Monica ended up making multiple potatoes to best accommodate her crew? She was dead set on bringing everyone's favorite family traditions home, which was insanely sweet but a little too stressful. However, getting an idea of how the holidays are celebrated amongst your own friends isn't such a bad idea. Take some of the pressure off of you by encouraging your guests to bring a few pre-made favorites of their own, to share with the group.
While you won't be able to duplicate everyone's traditions, you might be able to incorporate their ideas into your celebration. Being willing to adapt, and listen, will show your guests that you truly want this dinner to be beneficial to everyone.
4. Find recipes that don't take a lot of time
It's possible to cook a bunch of delicious food with a small budget, in a small timeframe. Focus on sides like Stove Top stuffing, which tastes delicious with just some butter, water, and time. Don't disregard vegetables, either — baby carrots can be turned into a delicious side with the addition of honey and lemon juice.
Remember that the reason for the season is celebrating friendship, and possibly forming a bond with a few acquaintances who also can't make it home for the holidays. Consider the food to be a bonus.
5. Refuse to talk about finals
The end of the year is stressful for everyone, and surely your friends will be a little bogged down by finals ahead. Make it a rule to leave the academic chats at the door, and embrace the concept of relaxing and having fun — especially if the busy academic schedule is the reason why your friends chose not to travel home for the holidays.
There's a good chance that your friends would have discussed schoolwork at length with their families, so try to remind them College Thanksgiving is a safezone. No talking about future plans, future salaries, future careers, or grade point averages. Let the worrisome topic of unemployment rates rest for the night.
6. Round up your favorite Thanksgiving specials
Nothing says "Thanksgiving" like seasonally appropriate sitcom episodes. If you're too old for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and don't care much for football, this compilation will be your best bet. Good choices are "A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving" from the third season of Gilmore Girls, “The One with the Rumor” from the eighth season of Friends, and the numerous Thanksgiving-themed New Girl episodes — especially season one's "Thanksgiving," where Jess tries to de-thaw a turkey in the dryer. (Hey, you might be dealing with a small oven, but at least you know not to put poultry where clothes should go.)
7. Create your own cocktail
If you and your friends are of legal drinking age, it'll be fun to think up a signature drink. This'll be the official cocktail at the party, and will help set your party apart. Even better, thinking of a mocktail with similar ingredients will make your underage, or abstaining friends, feel a little more welcome. Anything with a pumpkin or apple flavor will surely be a hit.
8. Bust out a game
It's kind of rare to have board games lying around these days — they're not always a college student's top priority when packing for the semester. However, a low-key game, either a board game or a card-based game, can bring a lot of laughs to the party. Some good suggestions include Cards Against Humanity, Apples to Apples, and Gloom. It'd be best to avoid games that take more than an hour or two to play. (Sorry, Monopoly — you have the tendency to never end.)
For more Thanksgiving ideas, check out Bustle on YouTube.
Images: Giphy (4), NBC