Fire is often treated as a natural element, alongside earth, water, and air – a fundamental aspect of nature that’s necessary for life to flourish. There are many good reasons for this, including the fact that fire can trigger the activation of certain types of seeds, fostering life directly, and the fact that humans have harnessed the power of fire to cook food.
But there’s also something more fundamental about the appeal of fire that’s harder to pinpoint precisely. Why is it that human beings are drawn to fire, and why should you spend more time next to one?
Fire and the Hearth
There’s a reason the hearth has become a central gathering place in many cultures. We’ve been using the fire as a gathering point for thousands of years all over the world. There’s even evidence of prehistoric hearths, created and used as a place of social gathering in ancient caves and campsites. In Ancient Greece, the hearth was such an important cultural touchstone that there was even a goddess of the hearth: Hestia.
Today, modern hearths are an inviting aesthetic design choice for our living rooms, adding a layer of coziness and warmth to the most social area of our homes.
The Value of Fires
These are just a few of the reasons you should consider spending more time near or around a fire:
First, fires offer a form of visual stimulation with a bright, flickering series of flames. Many people report feeling almost hypnotized by the fire, drawn into it. It’s interesting to watch, and it can break you away from other distractions, like the TV or your smartphone.
If you build a wood-based fire, or if you have a fireplace that can replicate the sounds, you’ll hear a distinctive crackling sound that many people find soothing. It’s a bit of background noise to make you feel calm, and it may even work for ASMR.
Fire is also hot, of course, which makes it the perfect addition for an outdoor event in cool weather – or a supplementary source of comfort in your living room during the deep winter.
Smell and memory
Did you know that smell is closely connected to memory? When you smell something connected to a memory, or even a previous time in your life, you’ll often be hit by a wave of nostalgia. Holding a fire regularly can fill your nose with that signature smoky aroma – which by itself, is pleasant for many people. Over time, as you spend time with friends and family members, laughing and enjoying yourself, that smell will be tied to powerful, positive memories you’ll always be able to recall.
Open time for discussion
When people gather around the fire, they’re choosing to eliminate distractions. You’ll have open time for discussion with the people around you, giving you a chance to explore new topics and get to know your loved ones a little bit better.
Cooking and meal prep
Fires are commonly associated with cooking and meal prep; hosting a fire is a great opportunity to cook some hot dogs or roast marshmallows over the flames.
Ideas for Your Next Fire
If you’re not sure where or how to host a fire, there are several ways you can get started.
Install a fireplace
One of the best ways forward is to install a fireplace in your home (assuming it’s legal for you to do so). Today’s fireplaces come in a wide variety of styles and functions, and they can often be installed with minimal cost and effort. Choose a wood-burning fireplace if you want that classic texture, or an electric or gas fireplace if you want some clean-burning efficiency.
Purchase (or build) a firepit
If you don’t like the idea of having a fireplace in the house, or if you don’t have room for it, consider purchasing or building an outdoor firepit. It’s an easy choice that can support your fires for years to come.
Rely on others
If you don’t have much space in your current house/apartment, consider getting a friend to host the fire, or keep an ear out for invitations.
Head to a campsite
Consider going to a local campsite and setting up a fire of your own; there are often rings or firepits you can use to build a fire from scratch. Just make sure you read the rules of the campsite prior to starting one.
After you have a successful fire and bond with the people around you, you’ll likely want to repeat the experience again in the future. Hopefully, if the others are on board, you can turn this into a regular event – and relieve stress while connecting with the people most important to you.