Hopefully you’ve been watching Christmas movies and listening to some of my favorite holiday songs. And obviously, there are other wonderful things to see and hear during December…lights and decorations, bells and train whistles.
But what about the other senses? The pine scent of the tree, or maybe a candle, if your tree is artificial. The one-two combo of smell and taste when considering all the wonderful baked goods of the holidays. Is there anything better than the smell of baking cookies? My favorite cookies to eat are Mexican Wedding Cakes and Thumbprints (butter cookies with jam in the middle) because my mom made those every year, but those aren’t the most aromatic. Nothing smells better than chocolate chip cookies. Except maybe the cinnamon rolls my husband makes every year, possibly the favorite treat for my three boys. And maybe apple pie, also Ken’s specialty via his dad, who I don’t remember ever cooking anything other than those delicious pies. It also smells pretty good when I’m making fudge, bubbling chocolate and margarine and marshmallow fluff…mmm…my boys other favorite Christmas treat. The taste and sensation of the chocolate melting on my tongue!
Which leads me to the physical feelings, bodily sensations of Christmas. Growing up in New York, Christmas was cold…rosy, frigid cheeks and ears. Fingers and toes numb from the snow that snuck into gloves and socks when sledding and building snowmen and snowball fighting. Then the glorious, if slightly painful feeling of sitting by the fire thawing out, my skin getting prickly as the blood resumed flowing.
My childhood home was a drafty, beautiful hundred-year-old house that was perpetually cold in the winter. I have palpable in-my-body memories of snuggling by our fireplace (or near one of our propane heaters), under a blanket, looking at the twinkling tree lights, eating popcorn and fudge and cookies, watching A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve. I’m realizing as I write this that I grew up in a house that did not contain junk food, so the treats and sweets of this time of year were all the more pleasurable because they were fleeting delights.
I also remember the butterflies of excitement the closer it came to Christmas. Trying to stay awake on Christmas Eve, listening for Santa. My siblings and I waking up at four in the morning, too excited to sleep, playing quietly (or maybe not always so quietly) until the pre-agreed time that we were allowed to wake our parents to open presents. The heavy fullness of a delicious meal and cookies and pie. My mom’s cranberry jello mold that no one but her ever ate.
We don’t often think of it this way, but Christmas is a sensual season, in that it activates all of our senses. Try to spend these next few days soaking in the sights and sounds and smells and tastes and bodily feelings. Paying attention to those will help you stay in the moment, rather than thinking about what you still need to get done, or should have done but didn’t, or plan to do in the new year. Use your senses as a way of grounding yourself in being. Be present with your family and friends and pets and self and perhaps a higher power, maybe God or Jesus or nature or some other spiritual one-ness. It’s another paradox that looking inward often leads to outward connection, to joy and peace. May you have all these things and more. Merry Christmas!