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:
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.
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 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 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.
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 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, 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 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...
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...
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...