As most people know, the timing of our Judeo/Christian holidays is rooted in pagan celebration of the winter solstice. Whatever our spiritual observances, we also crave sensual comforts to carry us through the year’s darkest days.
Regardless of the time of year, certain authors have encouraged us to, as Kathleen Tessaro, author of The Perfume Collector puts it, “Come to our senses.” Probably the most original and prolific of these writers was Marcel Proust, who has a whole syndrome named after him, “The Proustian Effect.” According to ScentAir MENA, “It’s what happens in your brain when a smell unleashes a flood of memories, taking you back to a particular time and place.” Proust may have been the first to link smell to memory, but Tessaro adds to this in her book. She tells us that scent brings us back to the very emotion we felt on the occasion that led to the memory itself. We don’t just remember the experience. We relive the exact emotion.
The holidays for me include the scent of pine from a freshly cut Christmas tree, and of the hot wax from candles we held in our hands at Christmas Eve Church services. Then the rich aroma of wassail we used to make and serve hot on New Year’s Eve. It’s also the fresh flannel smell of the new Lanz nightgown Mom and Dad brought me every Christmas. These are the fragrant reminders of security and fun. They bring me back to family traditions. And to a time when we didn’t have to wish for peace on earth.
It was in the air around us. All we had to do was breathe it in.