All of our hearts are heavy in the wake of the news of the Newtown elementary school tragedy. At such times, there are no adequate words. We here at SlowMama are united in our prayers and thoughts with the Newtown community, particularly the families of those killed. Advent and Christmas are seasons of hope, and of light arising from darkness, so it’s in that spirit that I share the post I had already prepared for today…
I remember years past when I didn’t get into the Christmas spirit until I found myself at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. There, the candles, incense, greenery, flowers, and ethereal music would finally stir my heart, just in time for Christmas day. Over the years, I’ve come up with little ways to stir my senses and encourage the spirit of the season in my heart and home before the holiday is directly upon us…
We’re creatures of the senses: What we see, hear, feel, smell, and taste conjures up powerful memories and emotions, connecting us to meaningful events and ideas. I’m sure you can think of foods that automatically channel your mom’s love, or a song that brings you back to that junior high school party where you met your best friend, or the aroma of cigar smoke when your Dad would come home from his weekly poker night. In fact, smell is probably the most powerful sense of all when it comes to transporting us to the past.
So if you’re feeing a bit bah humbug this year, or just want to bring more smells and bells into these remaining days before Christmas, maybe some of these ideas will help. Most cost very little, or nothing at all — and little things like this can help children start building their sensory memories, too.
Simmer seasonal spices on the stove.
Place a few cinnamon sticks, ground or whole cloves, ground nutmeg, and some lemon slices or orange peel in a small saucepan and simmer on the stove for a couple hours. It will make your kitchen smell lovely. You can, of course, also make mulled cider or wine and then enjoy a steamy cup of it afterwards!
Use essential oils.
There are many ways to use essential oils and numerous scents that will put you in the Christmassy mood…rosemary, peppermint, cedar, frankincense, and star anise, just to name a few. If you don’t have an aromatherapy dispenser, place a few drops in a pot on the stove with some water and simmer for a few hours. You can also place a few drops in a humidifier dispenser, or use it in your bath.
Bring the outside in.
Gather pine cones and cut pine branches and place them on your mantle or in a bowl as a table centerpiece. I even put pine cones in our Christmas tree: I love the look of them, and they remind me of wintertime.
Walk along decorated streets.
We’ve been taking the girls out for a lot of walks — the crunch of the leaves underfoot, Christmas wreaths on doors, colorful lights and decorated store windows… It’s a feast for the senses, and for two little girls who don’t speak English, it’s clear something special is going on. Most neighborhoods at this time of year are decorated in some way for the holidays, so lace up your boots (or sandals, if you’re in the southern hemisphere), take a leisurely stroll, and soak up the sights and sounds.
Burn some wax.
My favorite candle at this time of year is a small balsam fir scented candle — it smells so much like Christmas to me. There are so many scented candles that work at this time of year: cranberry, pomegranate, cinnamon, apple, pear… I encourage you to look for naturally scented candles, since many commercial brands use chemicals. And it’s never too late to set up a simple Advent wreath and light the candles at dinnertime.
Hang a wreath.
Hang a festive wreath on your door so that every time you walk into your home, you’ll see it. I like real stuff, but one year I spotted the wreath in my lead shot above at Marshall’s and hung it up for the holidays. I ended up leaving it on the door the rest of the year. Last year, I told you about Agnes Bum’s yarn wreaths; you wouldn’t want to hang one outside unless you live in a super-safe neighborhood, but hanging one in any room would definitely bring a smile to your face.
Display your Christmas cards.
I display all our cards around the house, and this year I’ll be stringing them along one of our brick walls so the girls don’t use them for paper doll outfits or something. They add another decorative touch to your home and bring to mind your friends and family.
There are so many ideas: Playing seasonal music (I’ll be sharing a couple of favorites later this week). Attending a production of A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker or The Messiah. Stopping by a church to visit a creche (even if you’re not a regular churchgoer). Grabbing a few friends or taking the kids caroling one evening around the neighborhood or at a local nursing home. The simplest things are often the best when it comes to heightening our excitement for Christmas.
What puts you in the Christmas spirit?
Image: Zoe Saint-Paul