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A winter bonfire is the perfect way to appreciate the beauty of a season too often spent indoors. And because nothing brings people together quite like the cozy warmth of a bonfire, it’s also a great way to spend time with your friends and loved ones. Whether it’s for a holiday celebration or a casual get-together, a winter campfire can make any gathering feel magical.
Read on for our “hottest” tips for planning a winter bonfire gathering!
If you have the space, look no further than your own backyard! Choose a large, flat area where you can place a fire pit or build a ring of stones or concrete blocks. Because there’s always the potential for stray embers, choose a spot away from the home and clear of overhanging tree branches.
If your backyard isn’t a possibility, check to see if local parks have campfire rings that you can utilize. The ideal spot will have restrooms nearby, and can be reserved in advance. However, remember that you won’t be able to let the party linger late into the night—find out when the park closes, and plan to have the fire completely out and all trash removed by this time. Or keep stress to a minimum by choosing an earlier time for your gathering—which guests with young children will appreciate!
At your own home or at a campsite, you’ll have more flexibility to plan for an evening bonfire. Offset the lower temperatures with a comforting fireside dinner like a hearty stew or chili, plus a variety of warming beverages. On a clear night, you’ll be able to enjoy the stars; strings of twinkling lights and a pathway lit by lanterns in the snow can further add to the ambience. (Battery-operated candles are a great choice here, as you won’t need to worry about them blowing out.)
Once you’ve worked out the larger details for your gathering, it’s time to plan activities and make a list of supplies. At minimum, you’ll need a place to sit! Park settings typically have picnic tables, but for a bonfire, portable seating is essential, allowing you to adjust your proximity to the fire as needed to stay comfortable. Having lighter-weight chairs like the Kickback Rocker™ or the low-ride FirePit Rocker™ on hand can make setup more manageable, and at the end of the night they quickly and easily fold up to a compact size.
Make any seat extra comfortable in the chilly weather by bringing along a stack of warm blankets to fend off the cold; a basket of spare mittens, hats, and scarves will surely also come in handy.
Ask guests to dress warmly, wear waterproof boots, and bring their sleds, ice skates, or snowshoes (as the setting allows). Once you’re together, the crackling flames will naturally draw everyone in for stories and laughs. A snowman-building contest or even a movie projected onto an inflatable screen can add structure to longer get-togethers.
Wherever and whenever your bonfire will be held, one thing remains certain—you’ll need to have a stockpile of dry wood. Plan on burning through 4-10 logs per hour (depending on how large of a fire you want), and ensure you have enough wood to keep it going throughout the entire gathering.
If you have land where firewood may be collected, look for hardwoods like oak and ash, which burn longer and with less smoke than softwoods such as pine. Ideally, logs should be seasoned for at least 3-6 months; wood that has been freshly cut has a high water content, making it more difficult to light and producing much more smoke. You should also gather fallen material that can be used as kindling, such as smaller sticks, pine needles, and pinecones.
Depending on the weather and what you have available, you may need to purchase bundles of seasoned firewood as well as a fire-starting brick to help your winter bonfire get started quickly and easily.
Whether you’re serving a full meal or just offering finger foods, it’s best to have plenty of winter campfire snacks on hand, as the fresh outdoor air can help guests work up an appetite! Set up a table with an array of simple but satisfying snacks from salty to sweet, ensuring that nothing is too difficult to eat with gloves on or prone to melting near the bonfire. Popcorn, pretzel sticks, and cookies are great staples. And of course, what’s a bonfire without roasted marshmallows? Have plenty of these on hand, and stock up on graham crackers and chocolate squares for s’mores, too!
In addition, a variety of hot drinks can help everyone stay warm. Hot cocoa, apple cider, and coffee are standard picks, but you can make them more exciting by setting up a station of mix-ins, such as mini marshmallows, cinnamon sticks, candy canes, and amaretto for the adults. Your guests will be delighted—and a winter campfire may just become your new tradition.