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It’s winter, and Christmas has come and gone, as has New Year’s. And it’s still winter.

I always find myself optimistic in the pre-January months: “This isn’t so bad! Winter sunsets are gorgeous, and it’s fun to break out my festive dresses. It’s not even that cold!” And then January hits, and with it the realization that several months of cold, short days stretch before me. The temperature also promptly drops come January here in Washington, D.C., and I have to trade out my cute coats and booties for my ankle-length parka and waterproof boots. It’s harder and harder to enjoy the world outside the warmth of my house, but at the same time I’m so sick of looking at the same four walls!

Sound familiar? Fear not. I've found that one way to fight the winter blues is to lean in to this home-bound situation: open your home to your friends by planning fun evenings in. Maybe you weren’t able to throw the Christmas party you’d hoped to, because all the weekends got taken up with other parties (how do those weekends fill up so quickly?!)—so why not throw a mid-January soiree?

If big bashes aren’t your thing, you can invite people in smaller, more intimate groups. While it can be great to keep an open-door policy, planning is also great—especially in the winter, when we all need things to look forward to! Sitting around talking is comfortable but can get boring, so being intentional in planning an event is a great way to turn a casual get-together into a memorable and heart-sustaining evening.

Of course there are the usual things: host a dinner party, using your good dishes and linens. Try a new menu (every issue of Verily Table includes a “hosting ready” recipe), or cook up your old staples—either way, you’re giving your friends the gift of your time and finding an amiable way to while away a winter night. But there are other fun, more unusual things to try when you’re wary of venturing out but want something out of the everyday. Here are a few ideas:

01. Host a wine tasting. 

Wine tasting always connotes sunny days and warm nights, but there’s no reason for the moderate months to have a monopoly on wine tasting—especially since so many wines are much better suited to winter (I’m thinking here of full-bodied reds that are far too heavy for your average summer wine expedition.) This article has some great tips for hosting this event. If wine isn’t your thing, try a beer tasting—this is an ideal time of year to try heavier beers like stouts and porters, even the occasional heavy IPA. If everyone brings a contribution, try some blind taste testing!

02. Plan a brunch. 

Brunch also falls in my mental category of “spring/summer activities.” Maybe it’s the prevalence of citrus; maybe it’s the florals; maybe it’s the sheer joy of sunny mornings which the very word “brunch” evokes—but I forget that brunch is even an option in the winter. And I bet the same is true for most of your friends! So give everyone a treat by throwing a weekend winter brunch. It’ll give you a chance to use different decor, to experiment with different brunch flavors (goodbye mimosas, hello Irish coffees and hot toddies!), and to discover a whole different brunch wardrobe (who doesn’t want to eat breakfast in cozy sweaters?)

03. Do a chili cook-off. 

I promise that I think about things other than food, but in the winter, we all crave warm comfort food. A chili cook-off is a great way to have community life and satisfy those cravings. Most of the preparation takes place at your guests’ homes, and if everyone shows up with a Crock-Pot, all you need to rustle up is some cornbread and the night is off. Try keeping the cooks’ names secret until the end. You’ll be amazed at the variety of flavors and textures out there!

04. Get crafty. 

One winter night a few years ago, my roommate invited our girlfriends over to make valentines. We sat around and chatted as we played with fun papers, scissors, stamps, etc. You could also tell people to bring whatever craft they’re working on. Think of it like an old-fashioned “quilting circle”: everyone doing their own work, but in the same space. Light a candle, put on some tunes, open a bottle of wine, and enjoy the cozy community life.

05. Host an outdoor winter party. 

Embrace the winter chill, and throw an outdoor bash! I find that one of the most depressing things about winter is being housebound, particularly because winter landscapes are so beautiful and so often under appreciated! So after a fresh snow, tell your friends to bundle up and come on over. Light a bonfire, string up some Christmas lights, and pass round the punch—preferably a hot variety! Mulled wine, spiked cider, and hot toddies are all crowd-pleasers. Keep a few extra blankets around for the thinner-blooded among you, and enjoy your winter wonderland!

This list is just the tip of the iceberg, and hopefully it inspires you to think of ways you can turn your home into a hub of community during these winter months. Happy hostessing!