The first clue that the Christmas season is upon us and about to get into full swing is the appearance of large, outdoor holiday decorations on lawns and roofs, and in front of homes, places of worship, and business establishments. These include Christmas trees and wreaths, live-size manger scenes, huge candy canes, and assorted oversized Santa Clauses, merry elves, and reindeer bedecked in jingle bells. Among these, one is also likely to see at least a few giant toy soldiers, standing either proudly alone at attention or in festive regiments. The question is….
Does the sight of a lighted lighted candy cane on a snow-covered lawn immediately fill you with happiness and nostalgia? It should come as no surprise that for most people, it does. But why is that?
Christmastime brings much joy to all kinds of people for all kinds of different reasons. For the religious, there’s the birth of Jesus to be celebrated. For the secular-minded, age-old cultural traditions from all over Europe are revived and re-enacted. Kids love Christmas, of course, because Santa comes to make their material wishes come true. Best of all, for everybody, the Christmas season initiates one long feast for the senses. Consider:
- The Sights of Christmas: Though it’s close to the darkest time of the year, everywhere you look you see the exteriors of homes that are decorated to the hilt and brightly lit. Inside, poinsettias in flower pots grace tabletops, every corner is festooned with decorations, and miniature Nativity scenes remind everyone what Christmas is originally all about.
- The Smells of Christmas: Certain pleasant aromas have the power to evoke lovely holiday memories. Who has not experienced a moment of euphoria when catching the piney scent of a natural Christmas tree in the living room or, in the kitchen, the smell of cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom.
- The Tastes of Christmas: So much about this holiday involves flavor. What goes best with ginger bread—mulled wine or hot chocolate? From sugar cookies to eggnog, there are so many gustatory delights to choose from!
- The Sounds of Christmas: Sleigh bells loudly ringing, a department store Santa’s “Ho-ho-ho,” and holiday songs, new and old, secular and religious, fill the air. If those don’t put you in a joyous mood, nothing will.
- The Feel of Christmas: How does a person “touch” Christmas? The funny thing is, most of the time it is Christmas that touches us in some way, and it is often a study in contrasts. Imagine the feel of cold winter air and snowflakes on your face—and then, a few minutes later, you are snuggling in front of a fire in a fireplace.