For UO graduate and Michigan native Lydia Balyo, Thanksgivings with her family in the small town of Charlevoix, Michigan, have dwindled significantly since she moved to Eugene in 2017.
“The Thanksgiving break we get at the university is extremely short — we get Thanksgiving Day, Friday and that weekend before we have to get right back into school,” Balyo said.
Unlike semester based schools, Thanksgiving weekend is placed right before finals, forcing many students who would like to relax to instead prioritize studying during travel.
The average cost alone for a flight out of the Eugene Airport is around $400 according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics 2017 average airfare records. This also doesn’t factor how Eugene has no one-way flights to Midwest or East Coast cities, requiring extended wait times and layovers, which can significantly increase the price of tickets that would be cheaper if they were one-way destinations.
This price hike can result in a requirement to catch a cheaper, red-eye flight, wrecking a student’s internal clock that has barely had time to adjust for the three-hour time change.
“It’s not an easy time to pack up and go across the country, especially when travelling home is two full days of just traveling back and forth,” Balyo said.
With the COVID pandemic still playing a key factor in determining the size of many family gatherings, especially for guests that could be immunocompromised, having to quarantine oneself for a week after flying home is not possible if a student plans to make it back to school for in-person finals.
“COVID restrictions have now made things much more complicated,” Balyo said. “At this point, I come home for about a week and a half during Christmas because any other time is inconvenient and hard to plan due to the large distance from everyone.”
But one way Balyo and current UO students have learned to fill this Thanksgiving void both before and after COVID began is through the rise in the popularity of Friendsgiving celebrations.
University of Oregon history professor Matthew Dennis, who studied the nearly 400-year history of Thanksgiving, added his two-cents on the rise of Friendsgiving celebrations in The Atlantic’s 2018 article that dissected the now common trend.
“Coming home for Thanksgiving” became somewhat of a mantra after President Abraham Lincoln issued Thanksgiving as a federal holiday in 1863, according to Dennis.
“Given that the United States was a mobile society and people were moving and spreading out everywhere, Thanksgiving was a moment when people wished to reconstitute their families,” Dennis said in his interview.
A reconstitution of family is just what many students need during time away from home, something both Balyo and her fellow Midwest friends agree with.
“My best friend is from Wisconsin, so we both relate that we can’t pick up and go home for Thanksgiving, which allows us to spend the holidays together in Oregon with friends that do have family members here,” Balyo said.
It’s moments like these that Balyo and both current and graduate students have had the pleasure of experiencing, which are excellent ways to strengthen friendships and bridge the generational gap between family members during the holiday season.
“Thanksgiving has been a great way for us to get closer to our friend’s families we otherwise might not have known well,” Balyo said.