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Pleasant scents conjure up holiday memories


Last updated 12/22/2006 at Noon

Scents always conjure up memories and a well-scented holiday home evokes memories of cozy Christmases past. However, it is not always the most fragrant scents that conjure up the most pleasurable memories. In my case, I love the scent of diesel fuel. It evokes memories of the hurried atmosphere in London at Christmas – the large red buses, the plethora of black taxicabs and lampposts festooned with pine garlands. But, diesel fuel is probably not a pleasant holiday scent for anyone else, so I assure you, it will not be recommended as a holiday scent.

Gifts of frankincense and myrrh

Jesus’ mother Mary probably had her own memories of His birth inspired by the earthy scent of dry straw and the exotically spicy scent of frankincense and myrrh brought by the Magi. Frankincense and myrrh are derived from the resin of bushes which are indigenous to Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. I enjoy my oil of frankincense and myrrh, which was a present from a friend. It strongly scents the room when a dab is placed on the top of a lightbulb or poured into a scent ring.

A watched pot never boils

Simmering cinnamon sticks and cloves in a pan of water was one of the ways my grandmother would scent her home. I sometimes boil a saucepan of water with cinnamon sticks, sliced oranges, nutmeg and clove. It still works to scent the home, but there are now other ways to simmer scents. Many stores carry pots fueled by candles without wicks called “wax tarts.” Simply place the tart in the top, burn for as long as you want, then allow it to solidify overnight, pop it out and change the scent. Tarts are found in food-inspired scents such as cookie and fudge as well as pine, balsam or other evergreens.

Ring around the rosy

Flowers are a fresh and colorful way to scent the home. Some holiday flowers such as poinsettias are not fragrant, but mixed with pine or fir boughs they can be fragrant as well as beautiful. Red roses make an elegant and pleasant centerpiece and can also be placed in vases throughout the home to give it uniformly scented air.

Visions of sugarplums

Vanilla and sugar scents have become popular for holiday candles and, although they might make you a tad hungry, the scent is reminiscent of holiday kitchens past.


When I was young and ambitious I thought it was fun to create my own potpourri by finding and drying roses, slicing lemons and oranges, then drying them – but I could never get it to smell strong enough without cheating and adding a bottled scent. So, since I failed at my attempt to become a potpourri purist, I have now become a potpourri purchaser. So can you, since it is readily available.

Lavender wishes

In my yard I have more lavender than I know what to do with, and instead of cutting it back and stuffing it in the “green” container this year I have plans to buy small pre-made gauze bags, fill them with lavender buds, then give them as gifts. Lavender is purported to have a soothing effect on the body and has been used since ancient times. The Romans used lavender for bathing as well as cooking and spikenard is a form of lavender mentioned in more than one Biblical story.

Pleasant holiday scents not only serve to evoke memories but will also lift spirits, promote a sense of wellbeing and encourage a cheery countenance from even the most “Scrooge-like” holiday visitors.


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