Everything you need to know to offer winter hospitality – gatherings to organize, food to make, how to prepare. Wintertime hosting made easy!
How to Offer Winter Hospitality with Ease
Summer is the time of backyard barbecues and block parties. But winter has its own sweetness when it comes to hospitality. Fragrant soups and steamy bread fill the air and our stomachs, cozy blankets and lit fireplaces with steaming cups of cocoa invite us to linger.
Kids who have spent too much time cooped up in the house run around screaming and assembling messes with impressive precision while cold air seeps under doors and through windows and sends shivers down our spines.
In either case, winter-time hospitality and the welcome that shelters from the outside cold is a sweet pastime in long, frigid months.
Winter Hospitality from Someone Who Understands
I live in Virginia. Before you Northerners roll your eyes and look for someone who actually knows cold to tell you about winter, know this: I just moved here.
Before this, I spent my life between Alaska and upstate New York. I know a lot about snow and cold and never-ending Februarys.
A few years ago I started making plans in October for how I would attempt to make it through the winter with a shred of my sanity intact.
One of the things that was always part of that plan is hospitality.
When snow is flying and every step outside makes you shiver but being cooped up for months on end sounds like torture, the answer I’ve found is to be “cooped up” with friends.
Why is Winter Hospitality Important?
Winter is not easy. Western society struggles intensely with isolation and loneliness with some statistics saying half of Americans say they are lonely. That number only increases as cases of seasonal depression skyrocket during our colder season.
Before Christmas, winter seems fun. The cozy warmth of home draws our hearts when we think of gentle blankets of snow and Christmas lights.
After Christmas, winter is just long. The lights come down, the music fades, and the gatherings become few and far between. We shelter away from the cold and away from each other, unintentionally setting ourselves up for added difficulty.
Winter Hospitality isn’t Just for the Holidays
So much of what we hear about hospitality in the winter is relegated to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, which is great but it isn’t enough!
And for those beloved readers in the southern hemisphere, that is not helpful for you at all!
Hospitality ought not to be relegated to big holidays (though those can serve as good catalysts). Hospitality is a way of life for the Christian and it needs to be a part of our day to day.
Read more about that here.
The Welcome of Winter
If you have ever struggled with the seclusion that winter brings or the intensified feeling of loneliness that accompanies the quietness of the season, a change of perspective is probably necessary.
In New York the winter is pretty much seen as something to muscle through. Maintaining a good perspective in a society like that can be hard which is why I love the beautiful encouragement that accompanies the concept of hygge.
Angela from Everyday Welcome had this to say about hygge and a new perspective on winter:
Winter is the perfect time to take advantage of our natural tendency to slow our rhythm and ‘hunker down’ inside, cozy and relaxed. The Scandinavian hygge concept got it right – when we create a cozy spot for someone to settle into, it says ‘welcome!’ Use the season to open your door and create a bright, welcoming spot for your neighbors who might otherwise not venture out.
So today, I’ve compiled a list of great resources and aids from Hospitable Homemaker AND several other bloggers around the Internet to bring you everything you need to know about winter-time hospitality. Here you will find tips for gatherings to host, food to make, and how to prep for it all. The goal is that this will leave you encouraged and READY to invite!
Gatherings to Host this Winter
We are all about simplicity here. Simple gatherings around ordinary food in ordinary homes are the basis of a life of hospitality. Events are fun to host and fun to attend but, day to day breaking bread (like the early church in Acts 2) doesn’t require anything fancy or overly planned.
Stretching what you are making for your family or hosting a potluck all count as hospitality.
In the winter, when the nights seem endless and the days are frigid, a normal meal shared is a true blessing to enjoy the season (keep going for some awesome ideas of what to cook!).
See Post: Ultimate Dinner Guest Checklist
We LOVE hosting a game night on New Year’s Eve but game night is great any time of year and especially perfect in winter months. Something about laughing with friends just seems to push the cold aside and make it all seem a little more bearable.
For a complete plan for hosting a game night at your house, check out this post.
Coffee and Dessert
This doesn’t have to elaborate at all and it can happen any time of day.
- 10 am? Coffee and coffee cake
- 3 pm? Mid-afternoon coffee and cookies
- 7 pm? After dinner coffee and steamy warm brownies (you can tell I like coffee, can’t you?)
For more ideas on what you can host very inexpensively, check out this post.
One of the things that I love in the winter is something regular to look forward to.
It is easy for a long, cold season to feel all-consuming. Days seem to merge and we gain a perspective of “just get through it!”. But who wants to live nearly half a year that way?
Instead, developing rhythms and routines that allow for regular, planned moments of joy in the midst of our “normal” can help!
PLUS hosting a Bible study also pushes us into the Word, which is the only place we can go to find help for our souls no matter what time of year it is!
If you are interested in hosting a Bible study but aren’t sure how to organize it or what tools to use, check out this post.
Just like Bible study, a regular event like a book club that happens throughout the winter (even if it’s just once a month) allows for a consistent routine of fellowship. Here we have the opportunity to gather with others, pull ourselves in from the cold, and dwell upon beauty for awhile.
A book club can be set up in several ways (expect a full post soon!). You can supply a list of books to read and ask if friends, neighbors, and church members are interested in joining you. You can host the event and assign each person a month where they get to choose the book for the group. You can pick a theme and mutually agree upon the books that will make the final cut (have everyone make suggestions and then take a vote after everyone has had a chance to review them).
However you want to run your book club, it’s a perfect opportunity for potlucks or shared hosting (everyone chooses one week to host), it doesn’t have to be stressful, and you can take time to intentionally think about something beautiful (the written word — assuming the books are well-chosen).
If you would like some suggestions for books that might be good to start with for Christian women, check out this post.
For books specific to Christian moms, check out this post.
No matter what gathering you choose to host, whether it is a one-time Valentine’s brunch or a consistent tea-time, know the beauty is in the offering, not the perfect execution of an event.
How to Prepare for Wintertime Hosting
Wintertime hospitality has its own unique set of challenges as we prepare. From entertaining the kids inside to getting to the store in winter weather conditions, there are elements of hospitality in the winter that make it harder (still completely do-able and beautiful!).
Make it a Rhythm:
Because winter weather can be so unpredictable, hospitality can be challenging to plan for. If we create a habit of hospitality by marking it on our calendars weekly, one dinner cancelation due to weather or sickness won’t feel devastating.
Hospitality, no matter what form it takes, needs to be a regular part of our lives. This is a nice thing to say but prayerfully, the way to make it happen is to commit.
For more information about how to get started with a life of hospitality, check out this post.
Develop a Meal Plan
I am a big fan of spur of the moment hospitality and the only way I survive is a list of “tried and true” recipes that I have memorized (or just made up at some point and they stuck).
However, the question of “what in the world am I going to make?!” still zaps quite a lot of my time and energy. For that reason, I loved Natasha Red’s insight for meal planning as a practical way to help with winter hospitality!
Natasha Red offers this insight:
One of my best tips for keeping hospitality simple, enjoyable and all about the time spent together is to keep a Seasonal Meal Plan. A Seasonal Meal Plan (or SMP for short) allows you to plan 20 dinner recipes at the start of the season to rotate through for 3 months. This keeps meal planning quick and streamlined, plus you never get into a food rut! When it comes to having people in our home, I find that choosing 3-4 “hospitality friendly” meals for my SMP is a great gift to my future self. That way I don’t have to waste time and energy stressing about what to cook for guests, but spend all my energy building the relationship!
Natasha also offers some great resources for meal-planning at her website! Check them out here!
Get the Kids Involved
I am a big proponent of kids getting outside all year round and in all weather conditions (maybe not too far below zero but otherwise, go for it!). However, it is just harder for kids to stay outside long when it’s cold.
When the snow has melted and it is just freezing mud, it’s even harder!
When guests are on their way and you don’t want your kids tracking new mud through the house, the best idea I’ve found to get their wiggles out and be productive is to find a way for them to help.
I know children (especially young children) “helping” isn’t always a great idea because it doesn’t feel like real help. However, it does matter and it is producing something far more important in their lives than a perfectly made bed or perfect arranged toy box ever could.
For specific ideas on how to involve the kids in your hospitality efforts, check out this post.
The Magic is in the Details
Small expressions of thoughtfulness go a long way. Cozy blankets, candles burning, and pretty tablescapes are all beautiful, intentional touches that add a bit of thoughtfulness.
Though I believe ultimately we must welcome with joy no matter the appearance of our homes, I do appreciate the beauty of simple, inexpensive touches that brighten and add warmth.
While I enjoy decorating some, this isn’t something I gave a ton of thought to before reading The Life-Giving Table by Sally Clarkson. She makes a compelling case for the beauty of a home and I have now been drawn toward it.
I loved this thoughtful, simple encouragement from Sue of Welcome Heart:
Cut up an old tablecloth into 15″ x8″ lengths. Buy 10 lbs of rice. Sew into neck packs. When it’s chilly outside, heat them in microwave for 2 to 3 minutes and offer to guests as they come in the door.
How to Embrace the Small Groups that Come with Winter Hospitality
Winter-time hospitality usually lends itself (unless you have a very large living space) to smaller, more intimate gatherings. For some of us, this is reassuring. For others, this is intimidating. Fewer people can mean deeper conversation or the dreaded lack of conversation depending on the circumstances.
But don’t worry, there are solutions no matter where you fall in that equation!
An Introvert’s Dream
Allyson from Rapt Motherhood had this encouragement to offer for :
If you want to show hospitality toward your introverted friends, know that most introverts tend to prefer smaller, intentional gatherings. Winter is a perfect time to plan these intimate, cozy get-togethers that encourage and build others up. Reduce small talk (an introvert’s worst nightmare!) by sending an encouraging podcast or sermon to your friends, asking if they want to discuss it over coffee or hot chocolate. If you’re an introvert, this is also an easy way for you to develop deeper friendships and reduce the isolation and loneliness that winter so often brings.
Nervous about Maintaining Conversation?
If not having something to talk about is scary for you and you consequently struggle in smaller group settings, conversation starters are a great option. Turn them into a game OR just leave one or two with each plate at the table to get the conversation going.
For a full list of over 100 conversation starters AND ideas for how to use them, check out this post.
Cooking for Winter Hospitality
The biggest tip I can give you here is to keep the food simple. Don’t think you need to be overly impressive or unique. Feed your guests simple meals meant to bless rather than impress.
With that said, remember also to give yourself grace. All of us have meals that work out beautifully and meals that are just not as good.
Consider that part of the process and don’t tie your identity to the food you make (or the house you welcome to or the behavior of your children, etc). Your identity is in Christ. Relish these opportunities to serve and love guests with joy, knowing that whether the food tastes great or not, the welcome is what matters.
Stephanie from Read, Cook, Devour offered this beautiful wisdom:
When it comes to hospitality, I like to think of it in the same way A.W. Tozer thought about theology. He said, “I don’t hope to tell you very much that is new; I only hope to set the table for you, arranging the dishes a little better and a little more attractively so that you will be tempted to partake.”
Most likely your chili is not all that different from the next person’s, but often the magic of enjoyment is in how we complement the meal. Robust mugs and spoons and piles of shredded cheese to sprinkle on at leisure, atop our favorite checkered tablecloth—these are details that imbue an old, familiar meal with color and charm again.
You may be offering a humble cup of tea—but a dash to the china cabinet for a cup and saucer, and a casual relocation of your flickering candle beside the steeping tea makes your guest feel more pampered and immersed in the moment than they ever will in their own home.
It isn’t about novelty, it’s about adorning the ordinary with touches of thoughtfulness that reawaken appreciation for the pleasures of the everyday.
Main Dish Recipes for Cozy, Winter Hospitality
Chili from Read, Cook, Devour
A hearty, filling favorite, Stephanie’s take on this classic dish look delicious!
Cara also has a 30-minute Taco Soup that is hearty, warm, AND quick. If standing in the kitchen all day to prep for guests isn’t your idea of a great time, this is a perfect winter meal at your house.
Side Dish Recipes for Hosting Guests in Winter
Dessert Recipes Perfect for Winter Hosting
I didn’t know that KETO could look this good! Angela from Everday Welcome knocked it out of the park with this chocolate cake and it is perfect when you host gluten-free, THM, or KETO friends!
Winter Hospitality – Beauty and Warmth
There is something so inviting about a warm conversation on a winter day. Lingering over hot cups of cocoa and steamy bowls of soup makes the long nights feel strangely comforting.
In the winter, hospitality is a beautiful opportunity to pull our hearts toward beauty – the beauty of relationships, the comfort of warmth, the satisfaction of a hearty meal, the peace of shared quiet.
Winter Hospitality and the Fight for Contentment
Winter is often associated with deeper loneliness and more isolation but we can fight this! God has created all of the seasons. They all hold unique beauty and purpose.
When the days are short and the nights are long, the best way to keep this perspective is to have friends reminding us. We must fight for contentment and sometimes that fight starts with a pot of coffee and an invitation to a friend.