December 07, 2009

The Scents Of The Holidays.

We all know first hand how scents can trigger our memory, reminding us of moments and places in our past. It only takes a trace of a particular fragrance to appear in the air, to transport us instantly in time and space. I am utterly fascinated by the means in which our memory is tied to our senses and the way it triggers the cognitive process.

There are many scents that are so very significant of the Christmas Holidays. The memories of celebrations in my past contain a plethora of fragrances, linked to perfumes, food, spices, places, people and nature.

The scent from the ten items below is to me so very representative of the Holidays:

Orange Peels.
Even though orange is an exotic fruit, growing in subtropical climate, which should evoke the feeling of summer and sea, the scent of its peel is a significant sign of the Holidays to me. Perhaps this is due to the fact that oranges, tangerines and clementines are most abundant in my part of the world throughout the winter.

Cinnamon.
A spice like cinnamon is today a common ingredient, used in drinks and meals year around. However, to me nothing say Holidays more than its scent. I use it in baking in December and when mixed with ginger and cloves, it is a rare combination that brings me back to the Christmas of my childhood in an instance, if I close my eyes...

Cloves.
Cloves is a spice that I recall fondly from my past. My mother used it extensively in all the Holiday baking and cooking. It was the main ingredient in almost everything that was prepared for Christmas in our home, from drinks to meals. There is a tradition of making decoration using oranges, that are pierced through the skin with cloves. Not only does this look beautiful but the orange and the cloves in combination spread such a delightful scent all over the house; a definite and traditional Christmas fragrance.

Saffron.
Saffron is used in Sweden in baking special roles for the 13th of December. This is the day which is celebrated as St.Lucia in Sweden. One of the most expensive spices on Earth, it is in use very sparsely through out the year, with exception for December.

Ginger.
I have already described how very traditional Gingerbread Cookies are during the Holiday season in Scandinavia. The scent of ginger in combination with other spices mentioned here is very significant during the Holidays.

Vanilla.
Vanilla is of course not only significant of Christmas. However, again, in combination with the above spices, the common scent of vanilla becomes that once a year experience that signifies the onset of the Holiday Season.

Mulled Wine.
Mulled Wine, or "gløgg", as it is called in Denmark, is a vital part of December in Scandinavia. This warm spicy drink has a scent like nothing else served during the rest of the year. It brings family and friends together and there is nothing like coming home after a late afternoon winter walk, to a house that is scented with the spices of Mulled Wine.

Spruce.
Spruce scent equals Christmas. I love the fragrance of the Tree as it is brought inside. It can bring me back decades in time, making the span of the years in my past so very relative...

Burning Sparkler.
In our family, on Christmas Eve, after the dinner, before opening the presents, we would burn sparkles on the tree. I loved watching each and everyone explode with tiny stars, as the lightning ball moved downwards, mesmerizing and enticing me... The burning created that once a year atmosphere of expectation and joy. As soon as the fire went out, the fragrance became so obvious through out the room; the most significant scent of Christmas that I know...

"Kapustnica".
This is our family Christmas soup. A traditional Slovak meal, which my mother would spend a whole day preparing before Christmas Eve. The scent is so very particular, consisting of sour cabbage, sausages, mushrooms and many spices that make up this traditional Christmas dish. No matter where I am, no matter how old I am, this scent will bring me in a nano-second right back to my childhood and the laughter and joy of the holidays in my past...

30 comments :

julochka said...

i could almost smell kapustnica reading your description, which is strange, because i don't think i've ever smelled it. :-) now i'm hungry for some, do you have a recipe? :-)

i can't believe we haven't made glögg yet this year...we've eaten loads of æbleskiver, but no glögg. i'll have to get some!

Nessa said...

I can smell them all. The smells at this time of year are one of the best things.

Giant Crickets Invade Norway

Kath said...

I love Frankinsense with orange..

Elisa said...

Citrus is my favorite smell in the whole world. It always reminds me of the Mediterranean, where I'm from. Smells can have such a powerful mental/emotional connection!

This was a lovely post, I felt like I could smell every single one of the things you listed.

Keith said...

I can almost smell these scents right now. There are so many scents, such as these, that are all around during the holiday season. I love it. It helps bring back good memories. I hope you will have a great week. Thanks for your blog comments. I always appreciate them.

♥Mimi♥ said...

You have me in TEARS! Kapustnica - I haven't seen it or smelled it or tasted it since my mother made it many years ago. I am Polish, that should tell you a lot☺

Just reading your blog about this soup brought back memories in a total rush - good ones - but memories that made me so wistful I felt tears welling up in my eyes.

Thank you for the wonderful memory of my mother...

Brian Miller said...

oh i can so smell the holidays just reading your post...mulled cider and cinnamon sticks especailly! happy holidays!

Jacki said...

Yummm....I can smell them all. I would be very interested in making that soup! It sounds delicious.

Cottage Garden said...

Oh yes the fragrance of Christmas ... I particularly like the evocative scents of orange, cinnamon and pine. Your soup sounds delicious too, and I imagine very warming and hearty - just the thing on a cold Winter's day.

Jeanne x

Calli said...

Oh the scents of the holidays! I will have to experiment with saffron...heard of it, but have not used it.

I like to sprinkle cinnamon over the coffee grounds prior to brewing. This makes for a wonderful after dinner cup of coffee.

I do mulled cider in Autumn, but have never had mulled wine---think it's time for that!

lovely post~ xo
Calli

Grandma Yellow Hair said...

Good morning
Just stopped by to check on you and glad I did. Yes it is amazing how scents take us back to different memories.
Great Post.
Maggie

Keera Ann Fox said...

And pine, as in Christmas tree! You forgot that! The scent of pine and cloves represent this time of year for me like no other scents. Except, of course, the smells of traditional Christmas dinner cooking. For my part of Norway, that means steamed mutton ribs served with mashed turnips and potatoes.

Michael Manning said...

This was fascinating! Vanilla was the major ingredient that I can recall as a kid growing up in our kitchen. But you're right, Zuzana. These scents do trigger memories! xo, :D)

Susan Deborah said...

Dear Zuzana:

Smells are invariably linked to the memory and esp that of places and people.

I could smell everything that you have written about. Great post . . . rather olfactory and nostalgic!

Joy and great smells to thee,
Susan

Helen McGinn said...

I love this post, I may borrow it! My list is similar to yours, I'd also add Obsession perfume, the smell of Scotch Broth and vanilla candles. Mmmmm.

Claus said...

Wonderful list!! I immediately began thinking about my Christmas scents, which of course, also includes cinnamon and fireworks. There is also a tree here call "pinabete" (seems its name in English is "Fir"?). The scent of this tree - an endagered species, hence protected in Guatemala - is unique, and comes only around this time of year. Great entry Zuzana...as always! :-)

Hilary said...

I wish I could click on each photo and actually smell these things. Of course when I read each of your descriptions, I practically did. Great post, Z. :)

sprinkles said...

I miss coming home from school as a young child and smelling the dozens of cookies, candies and pies my mother made during the holiday season. She doesn't bake much anymore. Thanks for reminding me of a wonderous time!

Blog Princess G said...

Mmmmmmmmmm! Wonderful list of scents. I love the word glögg, it's so full of promise. :)

I bet you're following the proceedings in Copenhagen. I am! Fingers crossed that something powerfully good comes out of it. As a scientist you probably have some cool insights into the issues.

staceyjwarner said...

what an enchanted post, smells can tranport me to another time quick than any other sense. I also smell scents of people I miss...

much love

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Oranges in Christmas stockings and the peels thrown on the fire to fragrance the house...cinnamon, cloves, ginger, all harbingers of
Christmas--beginning with our
Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. the smells of all evergreens--pine and cedar. And peppermint, everywhere, even the canes hanging on the trees. Wonderful!

Scribe816 said...

I don’t know if your talents in the field of science are appreciated, but your gift of enticement from the written word is obviously recognized.

Donna said...

Mmmmmm, I can smell them all. I love the scent of orange, vanilla and cinnamon.

The Christmas soup sounds really good.

Hugs,
Donna

Bachelor said...

Zuzana,
Kapustnica... would you be willing to share the receipe for this... its sounds so good and looks delicious. Even though I don't have a keen sense of smell, Christmas seems to be filled with savory foods and decors handed down from our ancestry. You are putting me in the Christmas Spirit!
LadyCat has somewhat reorganized her blog... hopefully to help you be able to comment... see if what she has done will help... others too have had the same problem.. let us know if it is a good fix or not....
Have a great day...... all the presents are wrapped and under the tree here....
Later,
The Bach

Richard Jesse Watson said...

Scents really do define the seasons and the holidays. I also would love to try Kapustnica. Is it like Hungarian goulash? My mother always made Scottish short bread, and put an orange in my Christmas stocking. Thank you for this sweet post.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

I love this post! Fragrance IS so powerful in evoking memories- How I do love Chanel No. 5, but regret that it reminds me of my first boyfriend who gave it to me for Christmas--and that is not the best memory!lol When I think of my grandmother, I think of her Shalimar. V.

Miss Eve said...

What a great selection of holiday scents dear Zuzana...I love all of them and I'm especially a big fan of Jule Gløgg (LOL) and cloves.

I will go to Norway next Wednesday and I can't wait to feel the real holiday spirit (finally).

Loved your red sofa in your earlier post, it looks amazing with those pillows! I would be curious about the paintings you have above the sofa...

Hope you have a lovely week my dear!

Love: Evi

jeannette stgermain said...

Since memory is one of the human functions having to do with my job - the memory of scents if the last to go. Wow, I like to taste that Kapustnica!

Protege said...

Julochka, Nessa, Kath, Elisa (welcome), Keith, Mimi, Brian, Jacki, Jeanne, Calli, Grandma…, Keera, Michael, Susan, Helen, Claudia, Hilary, sprinkles, BPG, Stacey, C, Scribe816, Donna, Bachelor, Richard, V, Evi and jeannette – thank you so much for your kind words. I am always so appreciative of all your visits and every single comment means the world to me. These days the lab is keeping me very buys and I seem not to find the time to respond to all of you individually. But I am happy that you enjoyed the scents of Christmas.
I am always thankful that you find the time to stop by.

xoxo
Zuzana

Gal Friday said...

Interesting...I associate the scent of burnt out sparklers with The 4th Of July, when we burn them here.
Your other scents are all Christmassy scents to me as well, except the saffron(don't know that I have ever smelled saffron) and your Kastpustnica soup(I liked trying to pronounce that just now!)