Millennials: They’re Doing Thanksgiving Better Than You

Of course they are.

The first "Friendsgiving?"

The first “Friendsgiving?”

“There are lies, damn lies and statistics,” Mark Twain famously said, and it was the last of these that struck me in an article published the other day on Headlined “Millennials Are Celebrating Thanksgiving in Their Own Way—Culturally and Commercially,” the piece detailed the many ways in which the boomers’ children are improving on the holiday. The data analytics company Dunnhumby, based in Cinncinnati and, it would seem, a real entity and not a product of Lewis Carroll’s fevered imagination, performed a new survey showing that millennials are “straying away from tradition while using emerging technologies to shop and plan for the holiday.” This, Dunnhumby says, is “a stark contrast from older Americans.”

What exactly are these profound differences? Twenty percent of millennials, according to Dunnhumby, are planning to purchase their turkey and trimmings via a food delivery app; in the survey, nobody my age (i.e., 55 or older) intended to do so. Who the hell would? Are you going to trust the young idiots who keep bagging your groceries with the canned goods atop the bread and lettuce to choose your Thanksgiving turkey? The apples for your pie? Your green beans? You have to know how to cook to care about how to buy food, and millennials can’t cook their way out of a paper bag. They only know how to eat out and then talk about it all the time.

Oh, but they’ll be commemorating the holiday with plenteous Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest pics. “No matter how you’re celebrating, Thanksgiving has to be shared on social media,” one millennial who works as a “social media and content marketing manager” told Dunnhumby. All that picture-taking and jiggering and sharing means that by the time they’re satisfied with the lighting and the filter and the placement of the sugar-frosted cranberry garnish, their guests will be passing out from hunger—or from the cocktails, since younger Americans, Dunnhumby notes, also are “far more likely to increase their drinking during Thanksgiving” than us sober older folk. In fact, in the town where I live, the night before Thanksgiving is notorious for gatherings of returning high-school alumni in the local pubs.

Oh, pardon me—not “Thanksgiving.” Dunnhumby says young people have renamed the holiday “Friendsgiving,” to signify that they’re spending it with people they actually like, rather than with those they’re related to. “Essentially, Thanksgiving becomes a fun day-long event,” one cranberry-saucy young lady quoted in the article says. “To drive home the point, one year I ended up at a ‘Friendsgiving Kegger’ … that started in the afternoon and went until 3 a.m.” Doesn’t that sound better than shouting down the table for Aunt Mildred to please pass the peas?

But here’s the statistic that threw me for a loop. According to, “59 percent of Americans aged 25 to 34 plan on hosting a Thanksgiving dinner this year.” Take a moment to let that sink in: 59 percent. More than half. So here’s my question for the geniuses at Dunnhumby: If more than half of all millennials are hosting Friendsgiving dinners for their friends, who the hell is left to come?

Ah, but numbers are merely the hobgoblins of little minds like mine, right? But here’s another thorny problem. According to a recent report in the New York Times, 36.4 percent of millennial women are now living with their parents—the highest level since the Census Bureau started mining statistics. That’s on top of 42.8 percent of millennial men. So the question arises: Where exactly are these 59 percent of young folk hosting Friendsgiving dinners going to hold the blessed events? In their childhood bedrooms? The basement? There’s only room for one turkey in the family oven, yo.

Still, you can’t fault youth for its relentless optimism. I have no doubt that when Dunnhumby came asking, a full 59 percent of millennials had every intention of ordering a 20-pound turkey from Amazon Fresh (think they’ll deliver it by drone?), getting up extra-early on Friendsgiving morning after a night of debauchery, then whipping up stuffing, three kinds of pie, two styles of potatoes (sweet and mashed), green bean casserole and homemade cranberry sauce, plus gravy and fresh-baked bread and roasted fennel with figs and balsamic vinegar from a recipe they found on Facebook, and maybe a customized cocktail, too. I suspect, though, that 58.5 percent will, when the moment of truth arrives, roll over in bed and let Mom do the cooking, per usual. As Robert Frost put it, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Even if you’re already there.

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