Winter can be a miserable time. Between the weather and our often impoverished financial state, it can be hard not to be gloomy.
However, there are good times to be had. Afterall, at least we’re actually allowed to meet up with our friends these days, and go round to one another houses. There was a time not so long ago when that was a thing we longed for…
If you’re looking for more action to your interaction with friends than a chat over a cuppa with biscuits (and frankly, that’s a brilliant place to start!) here are a few ideas to get the inspiration flowing…
Start or join a Book group
Seriously, what’s better than curling up with a good book under a blanket with a mug of something warming on long dark nights? Well getting together with fellow readers and having a good natter about it.
You can set it up just by messaging a few friends or a local neighbours WhatsApp group and/or there are various websites which can help you to either find a local book group or set one up. And if it’s all a bit much to begin with you could simply have a listen/read along with Book Club on Radio 4.
Run a Clothes swap night
New Year, New You but the wardrobe disagrees? Hosting a clothes swap with friends is a really simple, cheap and eco-friendly way to bring some new life into your wardrobe AND get rid of stuff that no longer works for you.
Super simple to set up, agree a date and time with friends and have everyone bring their stuff over. It’s worth agreeing a few things in advance – like what happens to the clothes and accessories that don’t get swapped and whose job is it to get rid of them afterwards. If you can, suss out a charity shop or a local clothes drop point where you can take any left over items.
Board games night/competition
Board games can be a bit marmite for many people – you either love them or hate them. But they are definitely not just for kids. Whether you want to stay old school and play favourites such as Monopoly or Cluedo or something a bit more updated like Crimes Against Humanity having a night with friends playing games can be a real hoot. It can also reveal who’s most competitive and how well you are at loosing mind!
Getting snuggly on the sofa with a few cheap treats (homemade popcorn being one you bring to the party for less than £1) and some friends can make an event out of a simple night of movie watching. And if you can’t meet up in person you can now run ‘watch parties’ for shows on Netflix, Disney+ and other channels – so you can hang out together and not have to worry about tidying the house up for other people!
It always seems such a shame that we tend to reserve bonfires for November, so let’s not! There’s little to match the joy of being out in the cold, under the dark sky (maybe even spotting constellations) wrapped up warm, drinking hot chocolate and chatting to friends as you enjoy the scent of woodsmoke from a crackling bonfire. There’s lots of cutting back hedges and shaping trees type jobs in the garden at this time of year which is perfect fodder for a little mini bonfire. Or alternatively you can huddle round a fire pit. And maybe even break out a few marshmallows for toasting…
Pot luck night – share food, swap items
Similar to the clothes swap but with food and ‘objects’ to swap. For a Pot Luck Night ask friends over and invite them to bring one object they are ready to part with and think someone else might enjoy (like a vase or a plant or a picture) to put into the Pot Luck, as well as one bowl of food to share with everybody. Everyone eats some food and at the end of the meal go round in a circle each selecting one item from the collection in the middle. It’s like dinner and a gift but all for the cost of a bowl of something shareable.
There are all sorts of resources on the internet to help set up a storytelling evening, but in its simplest form you gather a group of people together, sit them in a circle and give a topic for everyone to talk about/tell a story about. Light a candle and place it in the centre of the circle for extra magic. You then go round the circle giving everyone three minutes or so to talk on a particular topic. It could be ‘Tell us about a time you were happy’ or ‘Tell us about a place you really love’ or ‘Tell us a story you love to tell’. People are free to pass if they don’t want to talk on a subject and the only rule is you don’t interrupt the person whilst they are mid-story. It really changes the way we listen and there’s fascinating stories I guarantee you haven’t heard from your friends yet that can emerge this way!
Going out for walks on cold winter days is another joy. Even in the most urban of spaces there are usually some hidden nature spots – check out your local Wildlife Trust for inspiration, or Google best walks in your area. Challenge yourself to go to wild spaces and places you haven’t visited before. Walking with a friend in a new place changes what can seem quite a boring activity into an adventure.
There are lots of things you can do with friends for little or no money. Other ideas might include hosting a quiz night at home (do you remember when Zoom Quiz’s were the highlight of our social lives!?), or having a craft evening where friends bring over their latest knitting/sewing/craft projects (a great way to start on making presents for Christmas 2023 ).
This article was written by Rebecca Megson-Smith. A writer, writing coach and feminist, fuelled by books, tea and time by the sea. You can find her on her website, Instagram @ridleywrites and lurking on Twitter @ridleywrites.