When I was little, I loved group sleepovers when we gathered around a campfire. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the warmth of the fire… the yummy, gooey charred taste of the marshmallows sandwiched by Hershey’s milk chocolate and graham crackers… the sound of the guitar strumming along as we sang along… the feeling of togetherness, belonging and happiness.
My brother and sister-in-law have a firepit in the backyard of their home. I love it when they have me over on autumn evenings to sit around the fire to take in the stars and the smell of fall in the air, while sipping on hot cocoa or one of Shawn’s special bourbons. It all brings a smile to my face.
In his book, The Little Book of Lykke, Happiness Research Institute’s Meik Wiking, shares that “the capacity of fire and food to bring people together is almost universal across cultures and geographic borders.”
I had the chance to experience this cross-border, cross-cultural phenomenon myself recently after I gave a lecture at a conference in Portugal. The event organizers invited me to tag along to a community bonfire where a “magusto,” or an autumn holiday festival, was planned in honor of the Feast of St. Martin. The group gathered to celebrate the harvest by roasting chestnuts and enjoying one another’s company. Though I was previously unaware of the festivity and had only recently come to know my hosts, I felt like I belonged there. The sense of community was palpable.
Even if you don’t have access to a firepit or a campfire, you can create this type of coziness and connection, too. Again, taking a page out of Wiking’s playbook, you need “simply [to] light a candle to create a sense of community around your dinner table.” Fire and food – what could be better?