Growing up in Ohio, I remember the fireplace in my family’s living room as the central meeting spot throughout the freezing winter months. When I got home from school, after trudging up our long driveway in the snow, I would warm my feet by the fire. After dinner, my brothers and I would sit with our backs on the edge of the fireplace and let the embers lick our sweatshirts as our parents sat nearby, watching the evening news.
For those in colder climates, I’m sure you can relate – communal fires have been a beacon of warmth and light during a cold and snowy winter since the cavemen discovered fire! While most of us now have central heating in our modern homes, the fireplace is still a great place to warm up on a winter evening and to spend time together as a family.
If you are looking for new ways to bond with your partner and children, gatherings and activities around the fireplace can bring so much more than just warmth to your family. Your fire can be used as a place to learn, grow and interact with each other. Consider having a weekly gathering around the fireplace for some fun, serious and silly family bonding.
A great initial activity to kick off your weekly meeting is a “Fire Building” night. Take the time to teach your children how to build a fire properly indoors, while also making sure to teach them fire safety rules. Building a fire is a great skill that will benefit them for years to come, and they may even wish to start building evening fires themselves! However, always make sure you have a fire extinguisher nearby and that fire safety rules are reviewed at the start of every winter season.
Once the fire is built and fire safety rules are established, there are many more activities you can do around your fire to bring your family closer together. Here are a few examples:
- S’mores and Fire Desserts – For a tasty treat after dinner, settle around the fireplace to make s’mores! Make them just as you would outside, though make sure to clean your fireplace first to avoid getting your marshmallows ashy. Another great fireplace dessert is called the “Banana Boat.” To make a Banana Boat, you need bananas, chocolate chips, marshmallows and tinfoil. Cut the bananas down the middle (still in the peel) and stuff with chocolate chips and marshmallows. Wrap them in aluminum foil and place on the edge of the fire, not on a direct flame, for 5-10 minutes. Rotate periodically, and then remove from the fireplace very carefully: you have a Banana Boat! But be careful – it’s hot! (Note: this is for wood-burning fireplaces only. If you have a gas fireplace, do not attempt to make s’mores or any other food on the fire, for the logs cannot be washed).
- Tell ghost stories – With the lights off and the fire burning, the environment is perfect for telling spooky stories. Take turns making up ghost stories, and see who can come up with the scariest one. If you want even more of a challenge, have everyone pick a random word out of a hat that they have to include in their story. Bonus points for the most seamless entry!
- Play technology-free games – Being in front of a fire creates a natural, stree-free environment. Enjoy games with your family with all technology put aside to really enjoy time relaxing together. Turn off the TV, put away cell phones and enjoy a good old-fashioned game of cards, Monopoly or Scrabble with nothing artificial to distract you. Without technological distractions, you may be surprised at how intense the game gets with everyone’s full attention on the competition!
- Discuss things that matter – It is well known that people feel more vulnerable in the dark, due to our evolutionary instinct that it is more dangerous. Of course, your living room is not dangerous at all; it is the definition of a safe space. Use the dim lighting and comfortable environment to discuss whatever it is that matters to your family. Whether it’s your future plans (like a big move coming up), your hopes and fears (like a new job), or things that might be bothering you, around the fire is the perfect place to open up and talk about the things that matter.
No matter what you use your fireplace for; whether for snacks, a gathering place or simply a heat source, what is most important this winter is spending time with those you love and getting to know each other in new and different ways. Spending time together does not have to be elaborate or expensive; it is often as simple as snuggling up in front of the fire and enjoying each other’s warmth.
This article was written on behalf of New York and Connecticut firewood delivery service, Premier Firewood Company, wishing you a loving and warm holiday season.