College is full of traditions – new traditions, old traditions, traditions you’re carrying on from alumni who came years and years before you. Once such tradition is “Friendsgiving”, the tradition of making and eating a Thanksgiving meal with your friends, either before everyone leaves for Thanksgiving break, or over the break itself if you’re staying in Evanston.

As someone who grew up in England, I didn’t have strong ties to Thanksgiving when I came into college, and I didn’t participate in or attempt to create a Friendsgiving either of my first two years at Northwestern. However, this year my friends had different plans.

I’m a part of a group on campus called Young Life, which is a Christian group that ministers middle school and high school kids in the area. Altogether we have about 30 to 35 Northwestern students either currently leading or going through training, and my friend Jonathan decided to gather all of us for a Friendsgiving of epic proportions. We are a large and yet tight-knit group of friends, and a group of us all live together in this one house we call the Treehouse off-campus, and so the plan was to meet the Sunday before Thanksgiving and eat at 6 p.m. The gathering would include all of us, plus some of Jonathan’s family members, including his baby nephew, and most of us were bringing at least one dish.

The Saturday night before Friendsgiving, the preparations were already well under way; Jonathan was chopping up what seemed to be a grocery store’s entire stock of celery and the 20-pound turkey had been taken out to defrost. The next day I arrived around 1 p.m., and several friends were already over, with everyone in different stages of cooking their own dishes. In the end, by 6 p.m., we had enough food to feed our coalition of friends and more to spare.

It was, everyone agreed, the most “real” Friendsgiving they had ever attended. There was a giant turkey, gravy, two different kinds of stuffing, two dishes of macaroni and cheese casserole, two kinds of bread, Brussels sprouts, carrots in brown sugar, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and a whole host of desserts. We were all, I have to say, quite proud of ourselves. With only a college kid’s cooking supplies, provisions, and skills, we had assembled a very legitimate and delicious Friendsgiving. Together we cooked, we ate, and we took “family photos.”

And while I am thankful for an evening break from my homework and while I am eternally thankful for apple crumble, throughout the evening I was most thankful for this group of friends who had somehow become a family. College is a wacky place and for most of us it’s the first time we’ve lived away from home, and sometimes it feels like “going home” is the only way you can find family or a home-cooked meal, but at Northwestern this isn’t necessarily the case.

Northwestern students are big on traditions. We’re big on community. And we’re really big on forming families with our peers. And so, if you go to Northwestern, you just may find that you end up with a second family, in none other than Evanston, Illinois.

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