Fireside storytelling is an ancient form of entertainment, enrichment and healing. Sharing stories with friends or family around a fire under the stars is the quintessential community experience. It’s what our ancestors started doing 400,000 years ago when they discovered the power of fire.

Gathering around a fire at the end of the day is a grounding activity. We sit together, usually in a circle if outdoors. We share, laugh, learn, cry. We engage and connect on human and spiritual levels, deeper than the impersonal business and busyness experienced by many in society today. It’s a place where all ages of people are likely present, potentially a multigenerational assembly of household or community members. A special feeling is created. It’s sacred.

People tend to be more open at night, and fire is inherently both fascinating and engaging. It sparks stories, ideas, humor, innovation, harmony, collaboration, and a deeper community. The practice of congregating in this manner has had a significant effect on our evolution. It connects us physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. It’s where we can sit after a long day of productivity, allowing for much-needed balance created through the sharing of stories.

While living with bushmen in Africa for 174 days in the 1970s, anthropologist Polly Wiessner noted their distinct conversational styles. During the day 75% of their conversations involved work, complaints, or conflicts, while 16% of the time they joked around. Yet at night, 81% percent of their fireside chats were comprised of stories. Imagine how this brings community together! 

Storytelling is also a beloved activity for entrepreneurs, like Richard Branson, a vocal proponent who has shared how storytelling has benefited both his business and personal life. Storytelling can also build confidence, inspire action, and ignite creativity.

City dwellers can replicate the feeling of sitting around a fire by using candles in a living room indoors. Add incense to mimic the fireside smoke and create a lovely ambiance. The idea is to sit, connect, share and socialize with your family and community members after the sun sets. Leave the complaints and stress behind and focus on the art of storytelling. Share a personal life experience. Take turns. If anyone in the circle doesn’t wish to speak, they can listen, learn, and perhaps contribute next time.

The best way to savor the fireside storytelling experience is to initiate one of your own. If you have a backyard or fireplace in your home, perfect. There are wonderful ready-made fire pits available, which will instantly give you a safe way to have a fire in your backyard. Or do a little research on making your own fire pit – they’re quite easy to build. If your home isn’t an option, check your area for fire-safe spaces where you can gather with friends to create a welcoming fireside circle for community sharing, learning, growing, and thriving.