Little known fact: Freddie Prinze Jr. invented Friendsgiving.
Okay not really, but the actor and his wife of 17 years, Sarah Michelle Gellar, have been hosting a “stragglers’ Thanksgiving,” as he calls it, for almost 20 years now, inviting anyone who can’t make it home for the holiday to their Los Angeles home instead.
“It goes back to when we were all young, hungry actors, the ones who couldn’t afford to go home or didn’t want to go home,” Prinze, 43, told PEOPLE recently while working the Butterball Turkey Talk Line in Naperville, Illinois. “We’ve had everything from just my family to almost 30 people where we’re cooking multiple turkeys in multiple ovens. I have a passion for that and that philosophy.”
The actor’s favorite memory of the day dates back nearly two decades, when he and Gellar, now 42, had just moved into a home in Toluca Lake, California. “There was literally no furniture so we just filled it with tables,” he recalled. “We had maybe 28 people and we cooked everything you could think of. I had a ton of help — we were cooking multiple turkeys, multiple side dishes. I was up super late the night before prepping. But the moment we sat down my memory deleted all the work, all the stress.”
That’s not to say more recent Thanksgivings with daughter Charlotte, 10, and son Rocky, 7, aren’t just as beloved.
“My daughter is very involved in the process,” he shared. “She makes a side dish, at least one, every year. My son just eats. It works out! But she really has a joy for it, a love for it, and she asks all the time — even if I don’t want her help, she’s helping.”
The one thing Prinze — who makes almost all the family’s meals, he added — won’t touch, however, is dessert.
“Sarah and I are so night and day, and it’s why we’ve always been a good couple and had a good relationship, because everything I don’t enjoy she’s really good at, and everything she really doesn’t enjoy I’m really good at,” he explained. “It’s never a hassle for me to cook dinner because I like it.”
“But I worked at a place called Hometown Buffet in high school to help my family pay the bills, working the late-night shift doing dessert, and I just can’t stand making desserts because of that,” he continued. “So I do the cooking, she does the sweets.”
Though Prinze’s 2016 cookbook, Back to the Kitchen, draws influence in part from his childhood years spent in New Mexico, he chooses to keep it classic on Thanksgiving.
“I’ve tried doing different things, but no matter how many new things I’ve tried, I always go back to what’s traditional,” he said.
His secret for Thanksgiving success? Trying not to care too much.
“If you’re afraid you’re going to mess things up, you’re going to be stressed out,” he explained. “And when you’re stressed out you’re not going to be focused, and when you’re not focused you’re going to forget something. So I know it sounds weird, but not caring if you mess up prevents you from messing up.”
“I promise I have made mistakes,” he added. “But all I did was take what wasn’t finished or what was bad and got rid of it. And nobody knew! As long as you’re not undercooking your turkey, everything else is going to be okay.”
If you have questions about your holiday turkey prep, call the Butterball Turkey Talk Line at 1-800-BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372) or text 844-877-3456. You can also chat or email Butterball through the company website, or Ask Alexa for help, through Christmas Eve.