A Christmas for the Senses

By Alexander Germanis

Christmas is indeed a magical time—set apart from all other holidays by a certain sense of nostalgia. The magic of the holiday lies in its ability to function as a time machine. No matter what age you are, Christmas can transport you back to a time of innocence, to the time of your childhood—a time when all things are possible and wishes can come true.

The time machine of Christmas functions through the senses. The sights, sounds, and aromas of the holiday trigger something deep in our memories that flip the switch of the machine and send us all back to remember and relive.

Jack Frost Nipping

When Christmas is still out on the horizon, nature reveals its approach. The humidity of the summer is gone, replaced with a stark, crisp feeling to the air. Exhalations burst forth into puffs of steam as the first snows of the season drift down, tickling the face.

Numb ears, noses, and fingers regain their feeling with a hot mug of cocoa. The steamy beverage spreads its warmth throughout the body as if instantly carried along by veins and arteries of chocolate.

A fire crackles in the fireplace, offsetting the cold outside, complemented by furnace-stoked air pouring forth from previously forgotten vents. All the same, mother and father urge everyone to wear their thick socks, tuck into that itchy sweater, and wrap up in a blanket to help keep warm.

Sleigh Bells Ring

Every department store has started playing the latest Christmas songs over their speakers. Whether it’s Perry Como crooning Do You Hear What I Hear?, Frank Sinatra adding “Yak-yak” to his rendition of Jingle Bells, or Brenda Lee rocking around her Christmas tree, the air is filled with the festive spirit.

Throughout the town, children can be heard playing in the snow, compacting crunchy snowballs and preparing for the ensuing flinging frenzy with their friends. School is out for the holiday and their excitement is infectious.

On street corners and outside storefronts, Salvation Army volunteers ring bells and shout, “Merry Christmas,” hoping people will remember the less fortunate and do whatever they can to share some Christmas cheer.

On the television, jazz musician Vince Guaraldi is introducing the world to the music that accompanies an animated Peanuts gang. Charlie Brown wails in despair, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” and precocious little Linus quotes from the Gospel of Luke, reminding his friends and the world why the word “Christ” is in Christmas.

Chestnuts Roasting

In a corner lot, a small forest has sprung up. This temporary grove fills the air with a scent so strong, fresh, and clean it invigorates and revitalizes. Nothing compares to the smell of a Christmas tree and its inexplicable power to sum up the entire season in its natural purity.

Candy makers try to capture a similar clean feeling in the pleasant sting of a peppermint candy cane. Soon the thin, crooked rods of red and white will dangle from the boughs of the pine tree.

In the oven, trays of gingerbread and sugar cookies bake to golden perfection. The inviting aroma calms every care and relaxes the mind. Mouths begin to salivate at the very thought of how the cookies will melt and crunch. There is a delicious agony in the anticipation—waiting for the cookies to bake, waiting a little longer yet until they are cool enough to taste.

A cookie would not be complete without something to drink, of course—perhaps a cold glass of fresh milk for dipping. That is, after all, what will be left out for Santa Claus. Of course, there is also the allure of hot cocoa, further sweetened by tiny, floating marshmallows, slowly melting into the creamy mixture. Eggnog, however, is best enjoyed in gentle sips and lightly dusted with the earthy bite of ground nutmeg.

Visions of Sugarplums

As the day comes to a close, the white blanket of snow turns a soft purple in the waning light. As if to spite the early onset of night, the house is bedecked in large bulbs of colored light—spilling red, green, yellow, and blue onto the powdery sheets.

The warm glow of a fireplace promises comfort and shelter. A brilliant green balsam fir tree stands nearby, festooned with bulbs like those outside. Hanging from its boughs are ornaments of glass, reflecting and refracting the light from the tree and the fire, filling the living room with a twinkling like that of a thousand stars.

Beneath the lowest branches sit an array of presents, wrapped in patterns and colors that stand in stark contrast to the monotone landscape outside. What wonderful gifts might those packages contain?

Stockings hang above the fireplace, soon to be bulging with contents—aperitifs to the main course lying beneath the tree.

Although it is now time for slumber, in the morning the brilliant sun will stream down on the snow outside, bathing Christmas morning with a light reminiscent of the Star of Bethlehem. Dreams will certainly come true this Christmas Day.

To Kids From One to 92

No matter what year is marked on the calendar, as the month of December progresses toward the 25th, some of those years slip away inside each of us. Memories of Christmases past add meaning and joy to the Christmases of today. And for one blissful, magical, miraculous day, we are all children again. Merry Christmas!

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