By Gene Axton - [email protected]

One social circle in Scranton has a long-standing open door ‘Friendsgiving’ tradition

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Jess Meoni, 25, prepares food during a Friendsgiving gathering at her home in Scranton Nov. 22.

SCRANTON – After five years of organizing Friendsgiving gatherings, Jess Meoni has developed a method.

“First you panic and you rethink all the decisions in your life,” Meoni said. “Then, you just usually put out a Facebook event and say friends of friends are welcome.”

Meoni and her friends usually hold their pre-Thanksgiving feast elsewhere, but this year the 25 year-old Scranton resident hosted the annual event. According to Meoni, her mother wasn’t thrilled with the amount of people her home was hosting — this particular Friendsgiving tradition started with 10 people and has steadily grown to include a sizable amount of friends and friends of friends.

“We started really really small with this idea that you’re mostly with your family on Thanksgiving so why not make it a Friendsgiving instead,” Meoni said. “There are going to be total strangers here, which is fine. That’s what it’s about. I love when people bring other people because that’s the whole point. Then I get to be thankful for having a new person in my life.”

Friendsgiving is also a family affair for Meoni. Her 19-year-old brother Ray takes part in the tradition, too; he works at Walmart in Taylor, so he’ll spend the holiday on the clock. Friendsgiving also gives the siblings the opportunity to share a Thanksgiving-style meal in the company of others, something they don’t always get the chance to do.

“Friendsgiving should be a tradition everybody has,” Meoni said. “Especially if the holidays are hard for them. My parents are divorced, so my mom goes to her boyfriend’s in New York while my dad is in Wilkes-Barre. My little brother and I feel torn on Thanksgiving. We usually just spend it alone, so we do this instead.”

Scranton resident Michelle Morgan attended the event at the behest of Meoni. The two met this summer and became friends after Meoni convinced Morgan to take part in her GRRLS Night open mic series, which started in July. Morgan said Meoni gets her to explore outside her comfort zone, and Nov. 22 took her outside her shell and into the Meonis’ dining room for Friendsgiving.

“This is my first time and I think it’s awesome,” Morgan said. “My mom usually has to work on Thanksgiving, so it’s really nice to come here and spend time with friends and share the chaos with them.”

That chaos involved a kitchen where Meoni and her friends cooked a majority of the food, tables filled with covered dishes contributed by guests and a dining room overflowing with people.

Robert Stevens, of Tunkhannock, a cousin to the Meonis, started attending the event to help, but returns for the company.

“It’s fun because most of this you don’t really do with your family,” Stevens said. “It’s way different than a traditional Thanksgiving. It’s just a group of people hanging out. More people should do this in their own group of friends.”

Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts

By Gene Axton

[email protected]

Jess Meoni, 25, prepares food during a Friendsgiving gathering at her home in Scranton Nov. 22. Meoni, 25, prepares food during a Friendsgiving gathering at her home in Scranton Nov. 22.

Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts