Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Eau Christmas Tree

I love the smell of Christmas trees. To me, the smell of pine sap is the smell of Christmas. I love the way the smell lingers on my hands the day we pick out the tree and my hands are covered in sap from turning each one around to make sure it’s perfect. I love the way the needles in the vacuum cleaner shed the smell every time I clean for weeks after the tree is gone. I love the lingering essence of pine that hides inside the boxes of Christmas ornaments, releasing their sweet fragrance of Christmas past the next year.

We always had a real Christmas tree growing up. My father petitioned for an artificial tree every year - after all, in a household of women, he was the one who wrestled the tree onto the top of the car, sawed off the stump when we got home, hefted the thing inside the house and into the tree stand, and wrestled it back to the curb after the holidays were over. But the rest of the family was bound and determined that Christmas isn’t Christmas without a real tree. Herb and I have already had the real vs. fake discussion several times. Artificial trees today are much more realistic than they were when I was a little girl. Many artificial trees can’t even be distinguished from live trees by visual inspection alone. But the nose knows. No fake pine spray can take the place of the smell of genuine pine boughs. I’ve admitted that I might be willing to have an artificial tree as long as we have real pine boughs adorning the mantelpiece, and a genuine pine wreath on the door, so the house will still be filled with the smell of Christmas. But given my druthers, I’d still choose a real live tree over an artificial one any day.

That decision was anchored even more firmly in my mind this afternoon. Ryan and I went to Herb’s work to have lunch with him and to admire the holiday decorations in the building lobby. The company tree echoes our own, being decked out in dozens of brilliant cardinals along with long strands of artificial cranberries and sprays of various kinds of berries and grasses. The tree itself is artificial but beautiful and full, and I never would have guessed it wasn’t real except for the absence of scent. It’s very naturalistic and very lovely. But it doesn’t smell like it ought to.

Then when we came home, I bundled Ryan in quickly through the brisk air and as soon as the front door swung open, we were greeted with the warm, welcoming smell of Christmas tree. It filled my heart with a sense of coziness, warmth, home, and holidays. I could practically feel my blood pressure dropping and my heart rate slowing. Just that quick scent of pine relaxed me to my core. That is truly the scent of Christmas.

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