Joan Rivers’ dearest friends and family, glittering in their finery, gathered in the comedienne’s palatial dining room on NYC’s Upper East Side on Nov. 27.

The hostess “wanted this Thanksgiving to be traditional, so she made sure to do what they always do for the holidays,” says a close pal.

They only thing missing was, of course, the charismatic star herself, who passed away on Sept. 4 at age 81 after experiencing complications during a routine surgical procedure.

joan and melissa rivers

Joan with Melissa and grandson Cooper in May 2013.

Instead, presiding over the annual feast this year was Joan’s beloved daughter, Melissa Rivers, who did her best to carry on her mother’s tradition of hosting family and fun-filled holiday dinners.

Related Story: Melissa Rivers Speaks Out About Joan Rivers' Death for the First Time

“Joan’s Thanksgivings were about getting together and sharing. It was important for her that everyone gave thanks for their good fortune,” says one confidante.

In addition to all the usual Thanksgiving foods – turkey, green beans, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie with Cool Whip (Joan’s favorite) – Joan always encouraged her guests to recall special blessings.

joan rivers and barbara walters

Joan and her friend Barbara Walters in 2012.

“Joan was always there for comfort,” reveals a frequent Thanksgiving guest. “There was always a kind word, warm hug.”

To read the full story on Joan, pick up the new copy of ‘Closer Weekly,’ on newsstands now!