We’ve heard the first festive songs in the shops. A couple of places seem to be stocking stockings. Hell, I had a mince pie last night. Yep, there’s no fighting it; Christmas is around the corner, and we all know what an expensive habit celebrating it in style can be. So, if you’re intent on hanging out at home for the next month, avoiding the premature festive cheer and saving some money in the meantime, then we’re right there with you. Not literally of course, but you can invite us round if you want. Anyway, turn your home into a social hub this winter with these; our 5 IDEAL ideas for entertaining at home this winter. 

WINE TASTING AND CHEESE NIGHT

We have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love a winter wine and cheese party. There’s nothing better than cozying up on the sofa as the nights draw in with good friends, wine and a complementary cheese board plus all the fixings. That said, if you want to make yours a bit more fun and memorable then ‘wine not’ (sorry we had too) add a wine tasting element to proceedings?

For a successful sipping soiree, ask everyone to name the variety, vintage, region, value and style. You can even throw some blind tasting fun into the mix. However, it can be just as fun rating them and comparing what flavours people could taste; be sure to have tasting notes to hand for reference. But as far as we’re concerned, just getting the right varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot would be impressive. 

HOST A BRING-YOUR-OWN DISH DINNER PARTY

Instead of throwing a dinner party where you have to cook and buy all the ingredients (which let’s face it, can get expensive and stressful quickly) why not ask your guests to each bring a dish to the soiree; the perfect way to throw an inexpensive, inclusive dinner party. Sure, this approach can be a bit potluck, so best to offer an element of guidance or set the scene thematically so you’re all singing from the same recipe book, as it were.

The trick, we think, is to make the main yourself – say a côte de boeuf – and build everything else (and everyone) around it, asking your guests to bring specific complementary sides. Alternatively, you could set a theme such as a Spanish tapas night or dishes revolving around ‘spice’, for instance, and ask everyone to bring their favourite dish within that theme. 

GET CREATIVE WITH CHRISTMAS ARTS & CRAFTS

Winter is a time to let your creative side shine (nothing much else is; hey sun, where you at?). You could host a wholesome night of fashioning decorations for your Christmas tree or making some DIY Christmas cards. With that in mind, salt dough decorations are always fun. These can be hung on the tree or given as Christmas presents and look really beautiful when they’re painted and varnished. Following a basic salt dough recipe is easy enough and with an assortment of cutters you’ll be able to make some fantastic creations. Or, you could make your own gorgeous wreath this year out of Christmas baubles for a unique, super festive display.  

GAMES NIGHT

Having friends around for food is an excellent way of entertaining, but sometimes the hassle of cooking can be too much. Instead, why not invite friends over for a games night? If your friends are anything like ours, then you’ll know; people love to sit around a table drinking, snacking and playing a well-loved board game. If there’s a big group of you, then team games like Cranium or tournament air hockey can work well.

But even if it’s just one or two close friends looking for a quiet Friday night in, then you can always pop some drinks in the fridge and go online. There are exciting bingo rooms to be found at sites like Paddy Power, where themed bingo with names like Deal or No Deal, Age of the Gods and Rainbow Riches Bingo can make a cosy night (in your newly designed living room) feel a lot more fun than the cold wet weather outside.

WARMING WINTER BARBEQUE 

Not every winter’s night is wet. Pick a clear, dry night, wrap up warm, don’t forget the fingerless gloves, and embrace (or should that be brace yourself?) the cold winter’s air to enjoy a spot of alfresco dining in your garden.

Create a warming ambiance by hanging strings of fairy lights, firing up the woodburner, or even by lighting a bonfire. It’s a good idea to make a simple soup beforehand so people don’t go hungry while waiting for the food to cook on the barbie – hungry people feel the cold more and soon enthusiasm will wane if the vibe isn’t right. When it comes to drinks, winter warmers like mulled cider, warm rum punch or hot toddies will go down a treat. Finish things off by moving inside and serving a warm pudding with a hot chocolate spiked with Baileys or creme de menthe on the side. Sounds good to us.

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Rachel is the beauty and fashion director at IDEAL. She loves trying new products and is an avid fan of London's fashion, from the high end to the high street.