Entertain Like a TreeHugger This Winter

CC BY 2.0. Mt Hood Territory

Host gatherings with friends both outdoors and in your home, while sharing food prep to make it more affordable.

It's the middle of January. The days are short with minimal sunlight, the air is frigid, and finances may be tight after a month of holiday spending. In other words, there's a good chance you're feeling a wee bit depressed and in need of some cheap, cheery entertainment.

We've got just the solution for you -- TreeHugger-style entertaining that prioritizes get-togethers at home with good friends and/or outdoor playtime that takes advantage of the winter weather. Not only do these suggestions cost very little (compared to a night out), but they'll add bright spots and priceless memories to an otherwise dreary time of year. Here we go:

Potluck dinner: This is an old classic approach to entertaining that, in my opinion, is not utilized nearly enough these days. A well-organized potluck is a brilliant way to feed a large group of people without anyone having to work too hard. Tell friends to bring an appetizer, salad, dessert, and wine, and take care of the main course. Make it special by setting a country theme, such as Indian, Greek, or Mexican.

potluck dinner

© K Martinko -- A Mediterranean-themed potluck at my house last summer

Board game night: As the Washington Post says, board game nights are "having a moment." They're back in style, which isn't surprising, knowing how much fun they are. Choose familiar games or those with easy-to-learn rules that guests can review in advance. (Popular choices among TreeHugger staff are Scrabble, Bananagrams, Listography, Cards against Humanity, Settlers of Catan, Apples to Apples, cribbage.) Set up the game on a coffee table in the living room, surrounded by comfy couches and a cozy fireplace. Bring drinks and snacks into the room, so nobody has to leave for refills.

Crêpe party: This is an idea my sister's boyfriend just told me about. He used to host crêpe parties at university in Montreal, cooking 500 crêpes a few hours in advance and asking guests to bring toppings. Depending on the time of day, you stand around drinking coffee, mimosas, or wine, eating fully loaded crêpes. It sounds perfect for a winter gathering.

Sledding & hot chocolate: For a kid-friendly daytime party, get your friends together to go sledding. After an hour or two of vigorous outdoor activity, come back to your place for hot chocolate and popcorn. You could do the same with skating; check out your local arena for a sponsored public skating schedule.

Hiking party: Go for a hike with a group of friends (or cross-country ski or snowshoe) in the wilderness. My husband and I often do this with our kids at a nearby provincial park and we turn it into an event by bringing along a camp stove, hot chocolate mix, and coffee. It's great fun.

outdoor picnic

© K Martinko -- An outdoor coffee break after a hike along the beach

Lumberjack games: This is something my parents used to do each winter when I was young. They would organize traditional 'lumberjack' games that date back a century to pioneer days. Activities involved a three-legged snowshoe race, a race to boil water over a wood fire that each group had to build on their own, a log-rolling race across a finish line, making maple syrup taffy on the snow, and -- their odd favorite -- trying to walk in a straight line while blindfolded across the frozen lake (it's impossible). Usually the afternoon's events were followed by a potluck dinner.

Soup & salad night: Back to the food theme, making soup is an easy way to feed a crowd. Ask guests to bring salads, bread, and dessert, and you'll have a feast in minutes.

Fondue party: Host a fondue night. Start with a decadent cheese fondue, served with bread cubes and a variety of vegetables and meats. Follow it with a chocolate fondue for dessert. Your guests will be rolling home.

chocolate fondue

Michael Pollack -- Chocolate fondue/CC BY 2.0

Girls' craft night: I've attended a few of these and they're always fun. Whether you get together with a group of girlfriends who is each working on her own project, or you organize a single craft for everyone to do, it's a fun way to pass an evening, especially if it involves wine. Scrapbooking is another good group activity.

Wine & Cheese: The good old wine and cheese model never grows old. Make it more affordable by having each guest bring a bottle of wine or a piece of cheese to contribute. Choose a great playlist and the fun will take care of itself.

Movie night: Instead of meeting friends at the cinema, host a movie night at home. In many ways, it's more fun because you can come in comfy clothes and lounge on the sofa, wrapped in blankets. Pass around all the delicious snacks you try to avoid during the rest of the week.