Old Friends and New | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Old Friends and New

New traditions, such as Friendsgiving, make for a great holiday with friends and family.

New traditions, such as Friendsgiving, make for a great holiday with friends and family. Photo by Julie Skipper.

Holidays are often a time full of tradition and emotions—some warm and fuzzy, others stress-related. But for some, it's more about a lack of tradition.

For many years, my family eschewed the traditional turkey and dressing at Thanksgiving in favor of shrimp Creole. A few years ago, I remained here in Jackson for the day, and my parents drove over from Meridian to visit their only child. Living in a small downtown apartment did little to encourage me to suddenly morph into Martha Stewart and figure out how to make a big meal, so a new tradition developed—one where we drove around trying to find an open restaurant. We wound up enjoying Thanksgiving dinner at El Potrillo (100 Laurel Park Drive, Flowood, 601-939-9900), because nothing says "celebration of the blessing of the harvest" like margaritas.

That's all to say that I have no strong attachment to or need for particular customs year-to-year. In fact, I kind of relish the tradition of non-tradition. It's a lot less pressure to just go with the flow and play things by ear.

Be that as it may, I'm all for enjoying festivities with friends, old and new. That's why this year, I was excited to receive an invitation from my friend Maggie to a "Friendsgiving" dinner the Saturday evening before Thanksgiving.

Dinner with a fun group of Maggie's friends—some of whom I knew, and others I didn't—sounded like a great way to spend an evening. Thanks to the wonders of a Google spreadsheet, we kept track of everyone's contribution to the fete and ensured there were enough appetizers, sides, desserts and beverages for everyone. On the night of the party, we gathered in Maggie's downtown apartment, where she'd put together a festive spread complete with Pinterest-worthy decorations and a long table to seat everyone.

I enjoyed catching up with some friends I hadn't seen in a while, but I also really enjoyed meeting some new cool gals, relatively new downtown residents I somehow had never met before. We traded get-to-know-you stories, and a glass of wine eased us into fun adventures-in-dating. One of them showed me how Tinder works. We scrolled through, giving input as she determined whether to swipe right or left.

As she pointed out, winter is "cuffing" season (i.e., when singletons try to find someone to cuddle with for the cold months), so I felt the need to help out.

Having dispatched with small talk, we settled down to the serious business of the feast. Maggie did a beautiful job with the turkey, and one guest agreed to wield a carving knife to portion it out. Contributions from everyone else ranged from salad to vegetarian dressing to a quinoa-sweet potato-feta situation that was super-yummy (and healthy). I was quite impressed with the spread and everyone's culinary talent. The wine selection was equally impressive. I'm told that's thanks mostly to the assistance of the always-helpful guys at Fondren Cellars (633 Duling Ave., 769-216-2323), who provided guidance to the fellow who brought the bulk of it.

Talking with the other guests—some new to Jackson, others recently returned—I couldn't help but reflect on how thankful I am for the friends I've made and all the interesting, creative people who live here.

As we head into the Christmas season and the end of another year, it's another chance to take stock of our lives, our loved ones and our larger sense of place. I hope it's with gratitude that we can wrap up this year and start another one. Whatever your traditions, I hope they include joyful celebrations ... with friends old and new.

*This story has been edited to reflect a change. The quinoa-beet-feta dish actually contained sweet potatoes, not beets. Jackson Free Press apologizes for this error.

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