Even though my family immigrated from Russia to the United States over 20 years ago, American traditions haven’t really stuck. I’ve missed out on most all-American viewing experiences, like “Charlie Brown,” football and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Instead, my family spends the day nursing our food babies on the couch while marathoning all 10 “Friends” Thanksgiving episodes. Each year, we watch Joey’s head get stuck in a turkey, swoon over 2001 Brad Pitt and wonder how Monica was able to lose 100 pounds in just one year. We laugh at the jokes we already know the punchlines to and get teary-eyed every time we hear, “It’s always been you, Rach.” “Friends” has filled any void that the all-American traditions I’ve missed out on creating and have made “I’ll Be There For You” the theme song to my Turkey Day each year.
I don’t know anything about football. Sue me. However, the Thanksgiving episode in season eight taught me that randomly yelling at the screen is an excellent strategy to get out of helping with holiday meal preparations. I’ve also discovered that football breeds competition, and nobody does it better than the Gellers. Though my family is void of any sibling rivalry, Ross and Monica’s compares to that of Michigan and Ohio State. Season three’s “The One with the Football” is infinitely better than any real football game I could suffer through, filled with pantsing and flashing — going so long you could buy a pretzel.
Thanksgiving is all about being with family, but family gatherings are just not the same without a little bit of crazy. Since my family likes to spread out our crazy throughout the year, my lust for drama is filled with the flawless guest appearance of Rachel’s sister, Amy, in “The One With The Other Sister” (season nine). Amy is able to offend everyone in under 20 minutes, which makes my own family’s jabs seem quaint.
One thing my family excels at (along with the rest of America) is overeating. However, my Thanksgivings are always European-ified. My grandma bakes cabbage pie instead of pumpkin and stuffing simply doesn’t exist in the Russian vocabulary. Yet again, “Friends” comes to the rescue with every Thanksgiving food delicacy I could dream of. Monica cooks up three different kinds of mashed potatoes in “The One with the Late Thanksgivings” (season 10) and Joey demolishes an entire turkey while killing the fashion game in maternity pants. Even watching Rachel screw up her trifle (which, according to Ross, “tastes like feet”) has become a Thanksgiving day tradition.
The best holiday “Friends” episode, “The One with All the Thanksgivings” (season five), captures the universal spirit of the holiday: reminiscing with the people that have seen you at your best and worst. In Rachel’s words, “It’s Thanksgiving, and we should not want to be together, together.” “Friends” provides the heavy dose of nostalgia necessary for family gathering by reminding everyone of their most embarrassing moments. The appearance of fat Monica and pre-nose job Rachel will inevitably give you cringe-worthy flashbacks to high school and maybe even evoke some long-forgotten secrets to come out of hiding.
Just as the characters on screen change from season to season, so do the wonderful people that I surround myself with on the holiday dedicated to complex carbohydrates and pumpkin spice everything. Just last year, my younger cousin was covering his eyes at the kissing scenes. Now, he’s taking pointers from Joey and asking girls out on dates of his own. Without fail, the love that the “Friends” gang radiates out of the screen fills my own living room, making our yearly marathoning one of my most coveted traditions. We laugh, we cry, we try to keep the food coma from taking over our consciousness. And through it all, we’re reminded that “Friends”-giving is truly something to be thankful for.