Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Circle: Cycles and Seasons

I thank Roxana for inviting me to participate in this lovely celebration of the season, its sensory, familial and festive delights. I wish all a Merry Christmas and blessed turn of the year and decade.
I am Jewish and grew up in an extended family that did not celebrate Christmas. Still, the holiday season has always been the dominant theme of the advent of winter for me. A lifetime denizen of NYC (two years in DC do not count) the cityscape is replete with decorations and events from early on in the fall – this year starting just after Halloween! – and I am ever aware that Christmas falls just after the Winter Solstice, when we are beginning to notice a little more light each day. Actually, it takes some time to notice, not just because of the subtle shift but also because once the festive lights (they are everywhere: stores, institutions, apartment buildings…) come down the whole world seems darker and less colorful for a good while. New York City is one of the most diverse places on the planet, so Channukah and Kwanzaa decorations and in the last few years Diwali has been coming into the spotlight as well.
All senses are inundated with these markers: the bright and colorful sights, the Christmas songs performed in all musical styles, the abundant textures of gifts, ornaments and wrapping paper begging to be touched, the tastes of holiday and winter treats and the aromas that they emit. I am particularly fond of two scents: the rich creaminess of eggnog (with that touch of alcohol) and the pungent sweet fruitcakes that my former super expounded upon every year, asserting that he really loved them. Roasting chestnuts are less common these days but they evoke my city childhood, a time when we saw a lot more snow. As a pedestrian I am most aware of the trees (and wreaths too) that are sold on city sidewalks in the weeks leading up to the holiday. They turn the streets into imaginary forests, with trees that angle outward and perfume the urban locale with the fresh dark green and dark brown of earth and plant. I have from childhood relished the magical escape that they provide and I still love to walk through these corridors of nature, even when they are full of people shopping. On the coldest part of the year it is a beautiful reminder that even in the city we have not completely forgotten the natural beauty of our world. It may be because of this memory that Sierra is my favorite of Roxana’s perfumes – because it echoes that sense of how trees remind us of where we come from.

Please visit the entire advent series at Roxana's Illuminated Journal (and the rest of her site!) for a feast of remembrances, creativity and wisdom:


Lucy said...

Doesn't it seem like this year the snow brings out the scent of the pine trees all the more, and makes it all seem more special...

Roxana said...

How I adored living in NYC during Christmas each year, replete with all the abundant diversity. So true about not being able to notice the return of the light in the city, especially since it seems to get so much colder and "wintery" after Christmas!

Flora said...

All these descriptions of NYC during the holidays make me wish I could go there at least once in December! A very enjoyable collage of scented pleasures!

Scent Hive said...

Leah, I miss NYC during the holidays, especially walking past the Gramercy Park Flower Shop. Thank you for bringing the sights and smells back to me!


Ask Leah said...

Yes re the snow, especially because it is now such a novelty! I also love how snow makes the noise more hushed and creates a blanket that warms the street.
In terms of post-Christmas light, yes and all the more so because in recent years the coldest weather does not come until afterward - it now stays, on balance, quite warm or mild until well into December.
Flora - NYC in December is a must at least once! Consider it a pilgrimmage.
Happy New year to all!

chayaruchama said...

Xmas in NYC is powerful enough to make us all convert- sensible ;-)

You, a denizen ?!
More like a world-class citizen, dear sister.

Would that I were there with you.