A Christmas Carol: Christmas scents (old and new)

What evokes Christmas for you is so closely tied to your own culture: the sights, the sounds.

And the smells. Given that our brain links scent to memory in such a powerful way, often a key part of the season is the smells.

That’s why supermarkets stock bottles of ready-made mulled wine, and much more besides. If we want to stoke the fires of Christmasses past, surely scent is a brilliant shortcut into reliving those moments that made Christmas special before.


Christmas Past

For me, it’s pretty straight forward. It’s satsuma and Christmas tree: citrus and pine, if you will. Those are the key Christmas scents.

The satsuma is the classic item for the Christmas stocking. In my childhood, it was one thing you could count on, along with a shiny coin (usually only 2p, but specially shone up for the occasion).

In amidst whatever chocolate eating goes on on Christmas morning, the satsuma is in there, perhaps as a valiant hope that some more nutritious food might also be consumed. (It’s still sugar, folks, but it’s good sugar.)

The pine is the smell of a Christmas tree – particularly if you sneak the chance to sit under it, at night, lights on. (Don’t be confused by pine cleaning products. They’re nothing like as smoky and wonderful).

Bit by bit, more scents have joined the must-have collection. Spices are a key part of Christmas, whether it’s in the mulled drinks or the baking.

Cinnamon and cloves are two of my favourites, but there’s a clear case to make for ginger too – especially if you are of a gingerbread house-building persuasion.

Especially when you are in the early days of December, and Christmas itself seems a long way off (at least, to the junior members of your household), scent is a way of making the connection. Not quite, but really soon…honest.


Christmas Present

I’m trying something different this year – burning Christmassy-smelling candles, a present from last year.

It becomes a way to bring a little seasonal something at teatime, or when we’re reading stories.┬áJunior Reader is also enjoying getting to blow out the candle at the end of the story time.

The usual suspects are there – and also a cranberry kind of scent, fruity and spicy at the same time.

The satsumas are now out in force in the fruit bowl. I wonder casually (but internally) whether you would get more of a scent if you burned the peel in the candle flame at the same time.


Christmas Future

I’m beginning to think there must be an option for candles (or pot pourri or other smelling item of your choice) that cover other Christmassy smells.

I’d like one that does the slight gunpowder smell of a just-pulled Christmas cracker or party popper. There is a scent too to those paper hats in crackers, the ones that never quite fit.

I’m sure there must be an option for liquor scents, the ones that accompany gooey wrapped chocolates, the brandy on a Christmas pudding, or the sherry-enriched Christmas cake. (I’m sure it would come in useful for parties where someone has to drive home afterwards.)

But the clincher would no doubt be one that would summon up all the smells of a Christmas dinner. Ideally, one after another, like the chewing gum that Violet Beauregard can’t resist. (Preferably without a sudden surprise at the pudding stage, as Violet encountered.)

However, I would hope we can all agree that there is no market for sprout-scented candles.

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