Our winter is enough to make the stoutest soul get restless during those long, cold months. Sometimes the best cure is to get out of the house and spend time with others.

This December, Rat Creek Press contributors share their ideas for getting together with friends and family during the winter and the holidays.

We have a few different traditions with a few different people depending on our connection. For example, we attend the pantomime show at Fort Edmonton Park with my husband’s British parents, as pantomimes are a winter tradition in the U.K.

But my favourite thing we do is our annual holiday open house. We know that people have a lot going on at that time of year, so we keep it casual and flexible. No RSVPs or formal structure. We just put out some food and open our doors to friends, family, and neighbours for a few hours on a weekend each December. We sometimes arrange an activity, like cookie decorating, for people to engage in if they don’t feel like mingling. People can stay for as long or as short a time as works for them. Every year, I worry that no one will show up but every year, we end up with a packed house! It’s great.

  • Nadine Riopel

Snowshoeing is a great winter activity to do with loved ones. | Rebecca Lippiatt

With my family and friends, sometimes a games night is just the thing. We often play card games or Jackbox, which has quite a few online games and are a lot of fun. Or we gather to watch a movie at home or in the theatre. For one-on-one visiting, my friends and I like to stop by cafes and visit over a hot chocolate, coffee, or tea.

For outdoor activities, my boyfriend and I like to get outside and snowshoe when there’s enough snow.

Christmas, of course, is special and we spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feasting and visiting with family.

  • Talea Medynski

Playing games with friends can be just the thing to do on a cold winter’s night. | Pixabay

My ex and I agreed to alternate years for Christmas holidays with our children; when I have Christmas, he has New Year’s, and so on. 2018 is my year.

I have mixed feelings about Christmas. I worry about creating good memories and feelings when it is a struggle for me to make ends meet. I have no relatives in Edmonton or nearby. We work it out, though, and no matter how much I worry, on the day, the kids always seem happy.

We have an Advent calendar made of baby socks and a metallic ornament tree. The girls alternate “sock day” throughout Advent. The sock has a small gift in it. The year my mother was in palliative care, I spent a lot of time going back and forth to Toronto. I couldn’t be with them, and money was tight. Instead of a gift, I wrote a haiku clue for each day. The puzzle was to guess what their Christmas gift was. They had fun leading up to the Christmas Eve reveal: I was taking them to Fantasyland Hotel at the mall for the waterpark and shopping with their Christmas money (from relatives). It was a good year, even in a difficult time.

  • Tekla Luchenski

Tekla Luchenski got creative with an Advent calendar. | Pixabay

I have a group of friends scattered all around the world. We make sure to keep in touch online, and we’re all incredibly close. A few years ago, we started a “secret gifts” tradition where we randomly draw names, sending a small gift and a card to our assigned person. It’s a great reminder that we all have very different day-to-day lives, and gives us a chance to connect in a different way than we usually do. Plus, I’ve gotten some really cool gifts and it allows me to support local artists by making sure that their pieces are seen somewhere like India or the Netherlands.

  • Franki Harrogate

Franki Harrogate started a “secret gifts” tradition with friends. | Pixabay

My favourite Christmas event while growing up was the tree decorating party. Everyone was either to bring a decoration or make a decoration. There was no pressure to do anything other than visit and be crafty. After the decorations were done, we would visit and string popcorn for the tree.

With my own children, decorating the tree is still one of my favourite parts of Christmas. I didn’t get a real tree until they were about four and five. We went to Ikea, and somehow got a seven-foot tree into our car. The bottom was cut crooked and I had to straighten it. I still have that tree cookie from our first year. My elder son had several lovely ornaments he’d been gifted as a baby (winter baby), but my younger son only had one (summer baby). That first year, he dropped it and was devastated. I managed to glue it back together with a hot glue gun. Now, it’s all bumpy and lumpy, but every year it gets hung on the tree, and is even more precious than when it was perfect. Every year I get a new ornament for them, based on something that happened in our lives, and we tell the stories as we decorate the tree. It’s a time of bonding, storytelling, and affirmation of each individual in our family.

  • Rebecca Lippiatt

Featured Image: Nadine Riopel includes activities like cookie decorating at her and her husband’s open house. | Pixabay