Wherever you stand on the start of winter (1 December for meteorologists, 21 December for solstice fans) as far as most households’ official seasonal gauge is concerned – AKA the central heating – it’s definitely arrived. The temperature has dropped, the gloves have been pulled out of the loft and you’re already wishing you’d got round to doing something about the draft under the front door.
Cold, dark and wet, it’s easy to be down on the frostiest months of the year but there’s much to love about a season that encourages hunkering down, excessive layering and mulled beverages. And whether you’re browsing gift guides on the sofa with a hot cup of tea or pondering tactics for the season ahead, the build up to Christmas is definitely the best bit.
You don’t even have to shell out for ice-skating trips and panto to have a good time this winter. Kick back, take stock and tick off some of our favourite simple winter pleasures as the nights’ draw in.
Family film afternoons are positively guilt inducing in the height of summer but from December onwards anything goes. The lack of pressure to leave the house is definitely our favourite thing about winter. Throw another log on the fire, layer up the blankets and hibernate till spring.
Fun and games
The family that plays together stays together… at least until someone puts a hotel on Mayfair. It’s the perfect time of year to fight it out over Monopoly (there’s a great junior version for younger children), get stuck in to Trivial Pursuits or finally teach them backgammon or chess.
Shine a light
Hold out until later in the month for the Christmas decs if you must, but for maximum seasonal joy you need to get the fairy lights out NOW. Ditto candles and lots of them. Grotto vibes for the interior design win, the twinklier the better.
Cashmere joggers, fluffy bed socks, slippers with everything…if the first thing you do when you get home isn’t swathe yourself in super-soft layers you’re not doing winter right. Same goes for the kids, just skip the cashmere.
Celebrate the winter solstice
The shortest day falls on 21 December in the northern hemisphere. Celebrate the days starting to get longer again with a candlelit feast, garden bonfire, lantern-making session or sunset sparklers.
Stock up on marshmallows, whipped cream and Cadbury’s, it’s officially hot chocolate bribery season. Got to lure them out to walk the dog? Bedrooms need tidying? Want your own way with the remote control? The lure of hot chocolate will see you right every time.
Bring on the Bublé
There’s a time and a place for carefully curated playlists and the Smiths back catalogue and now is not it. Winter – and more specifically the festive run up – is time to up the cheese factor, bring on the carols and reacquaint yourself with Wham! Last Christmas. And Bublé, obvs.
Pimp your jigsaw
Trust us, this is one seasonal family traditional you won’t believe you ever lived with out. Bag yourselves a festive puzzle (anything less than 1000 pieces is considered amateur), train the kids to hunt down the straight edges/sort by colour, buy one of these genius puzzle boards and spend the next month furiously insisting the manufacturers have forgotten to include part of Santa’s beard*.
*until you find it under the sofa.
Load up Netflix
Step back in time and introduce the Christmas classics of your youth to the next generation. The excuse to re-watch Home Alone, Elf, Santa Claus: The Movie, Polar Express and the Muppets Christmas Carol is the most solid reason for having children we’ve found so far.
Join a lantern parade
You do have to leave the house for this one but there’s nothing like wrapping up warm for a brightly stroll around the neighbourhood. Find a parade near you, craft a lantern or two (event organisers often put on lantern-making sessions too) and embrace a bit of heartwarming community spirit.
Breathe it in
Pine, cinnamon, gingerbread, wood smoke… winter has all the best aromas. Whether you’re simmering a vat of mulled wine, baking a gingerbread house or simply lighting a swanky scented candle, don’t forget to stop and appreciate the scent of the season.
If crafting with the kids is your idea of fun there’s no better time of year to get involved. Start a production line of handmade gifts and cards or stick a few cloves in some oranges and spray paint those pinecones we told you to collect in autumn.
Don’t waste a single second starving yourself for party season, with green juice January just weeks away it’s now or never for the winter food fest. Savour that stew, devour the melted cheese and yes everything really does taste better roasted.