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What Does Christmas Smell Like?

December 23, 2011

Christmas SmellI heard someone say on a news program that they “love the smell of Christmas.”

So that got me thinking. What exactly does Christmas smell like? What smells elicit memories of Christmas past? I love the smell of Christmas in the morning — it smells like… (fill-in-the-blank)

For me that’s somewhat hard to nail down. That sweet aroma of spruce pine does it. Nutmeg tickles the nose with memories of spiced up egg-nog on Christmas morning.

The smell of rum reminds me of Aunt Ruby’s high-test fruit cake. I miss Aunt Ruby.

Strangely enough the smell of Vienna Sausage reminds me of Christmas. Every December we would pile in the family station wagon and make the dozen hour drive to Alabama to spend Christmas with the grandparents. Dad didn’t much like to stop for anything except gas and if I had to go I’d better plan my pee-breaks around fuel-ups. He was a driver not a stopper.

For meals we had cans of Vienna sausage and saltine crackers. (He would eat sardines but I found the little fish pretty disgusting.) If I was real lucky mother fixed a few PB&J sandwiches for the journey. I don’t remember ever being that fortunate.

Black MariahChewing tobacco reminds me of Christmas, not that I was munching on tobacco as a ten year old. Grandpa Mills chewed it. His brand was Black Mariah and we always brought him a few boxes with us. That stuff was a square that looked a lot like a dark fudge brownie. Papa Mills would pull out his pocketknife and slice off a big hunk of it and pop it into his mouth like it was a piece of chocolate cake. The smell from his spit-can is probably still hovering like a bio-hazard in the skies above Franklin County.

I wish I could put my finger on that smell in the old Mills homestead. That’s the only place on the planet I have ever smelled that smell. It was neither pleasant or unpleasant. It was a reminder that Christmas was just a few days away and I was stuck in Alabama a long way from home.

My conclusion is the smell of Christmas is molded by the path you take getting there. What does Christmas smell like to you?

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One Comment
  1. December 23, 2011 10:43 am

    Christmas in my Southern California household had no smell. We had a silver aluminum tree with a colored light wheel so there was no sweet smell of pine or spruce. The temps ranged in the 60s or 70s, so there was no smell of fresh snow. (And isn’t it amazing that something that’s little more than frozen water has its own distinctive smell?!?) My mother didn’t do any more or any less baking for Christmas than at any other time of year, and that’s something I feel vaguely thankful for in retrospect; she wasn’t talented in the kitchen.

    So my childhood Christmasses had no scent. Weird, yes, but it stops short of being Vienna-sausage weird, lol!

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