I recently read this quote from The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans: “The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood” and I couldn't agree more. Christmas smells will evoke in us nostalgia like no other time of the year.
It's impossible to smell something, good or bad, that doesn't bring a memory to your mind. A friend and I were talking the other day about how people decorate with magnolias at Christmas and, even though I'm a little indifferent to it, my friend stated emphatically that she doesn't like magnolias and thinks them ugly! I wouldn't go that far, but I will say that magnolia trees can be quite the challenge as they mature, spread out for miles (well, maybe that's an exaggeration), and drop their hundreds of leaves year after year. But before I allowed her to totally diss the beautiful magnolia tree (aggravating as it can be), I recalled a memory from childhood that has kept the magnolia near and dear to my heart over the years. When I was a young child, my mom took us to our local church for Vacation Bible School in the early weeks of summer vacation. Being in the south, warm temperatures abounded, as did mature magnolias, and we took our refreshments outside in the breezeway between the sanctuary and the educational building. The memory of those coconut cookies and lemonade served to us still floods over me when I taste that combination today. But mingled with it is the smell of those grand magnolias and the intoxicating scent their hand-sized blooms released. Coconut, lemon, and magnolia. Just one of the "smell" memories that has not released me in over 50 years.
Moving to Christmas as a young person, there were more smells that locked themselves in my memory and that still keep me bound today, but in a good way that recounts many happy Christmases as a child. Now, I am definitely going to date myself when I make this confession but here goes... On Christmas morning, my siblings and I received a stocking full of fruit, nuts, and candy. Yep, that's right, no small gifts tucked inside, just fruit, nuts, and candy. I don't know if it was a tradition or just the fact that we didn't always have fruit in the house, so Christmas fruit was a luxury. But to this very day, the smell of oranges at Christmas take me way back to a simpler day. Even moreso if I smell oranges studded with cloves. What about the scent of apple pie baking, apple cider simmering on the stove, or a blazing fire burning hickory wood? Peppermint candy? A turkey roasting in the oven? The heady perfume of freshly cut pine? These are just some of the smells I associate with Christmas and when I smell them, the scent not only fills my nostrils but my heart as well. They take me back on a journey where I spent many Christmases with parents who loved and adored me and were the reasons for so many of my happy holiday memories.
Today, we can buy scents: Christmas scents, floral scents, herbal scents, beach scents, exotic scents. You can purchase candles that smell absolutely amazing, scented oil bottles that permeate an entire room, plug-ins, stand-ups, lotions, potions, creams, and spray air fresheners of every imaginable combination. Smell is one of the most stimulating senses, and it can move us to remember, once again good or bad, all the events associated with those smells. I can smell a cologne that takes me back to the seventies and the challenging days of high school and feel quite happy that I have moved to a different time in my life -- Chanel No. 5, anyone? No, thank you. Love's Baby Soft cologne or Windsong? Uh-oh, I'm dating myself again! Every time I smell an older person who is wearing a coat they just pulled out of a cedar chest, that familiar smell definitely speaks to me of a time when many people, well, put their coats in cedar chests! Not sure how I feel about that cedar chest smell. And if it's mixed with the scent of Ben-Gay, I don't even wanna go there. But it's funny... All the fragrances I associate with Christmas are desirable and I enjoy their ability to get me in the Christmas spirit just by visiting them -- or recreating them -- once again. They keep me grounded in the "specialness" of Christmastime and remind me to never take for granted the memories they stir within me.
What Christmas smells are you brewing up this year? Baking gingerbread cookies with the kids? Making rosemary bread for your Christmas Eve dinner? Whatever you're doing, may the many wonderful smells of Christmas be with you and carry you right into the New Year. BTW, have you smelled the Winter candle from Bath & Body Works? Hands down, my favorite Christmas/winter candle for the last five or so years. The permeating scent is burning hickory, so it will take you all the way to spring through the coming cold months. Without a doubt, it's heaven (and a roaring fire) in a jar... If Bath& Body Works EVER discontinues this candle, I will stage a protest they won't soon forget!
Happy smells, my friend, and a very Merry Christmas to you!
Posted by CC
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