The smell of Christmas seems to be more powerful in transporting us back to our childhood and those favorite moments of Christmas. I experienced this myself when I opened a jar of Gingerbread Spice from Gewurtzhaus. In an instant, I was under my Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, elated at the chance to eat my favorite baked treats that were religiously baked only at Christmas time. I was compelled to keep smelling that jar. As it turns out, psychologists have known for a long time that the sense of smell is the most potent way to invoke both memories and emotions. This is because the olfactory bulb that starts in our noses travels directly to parts of the brain that are responsible for memories and emotions.
That’s why I was transported back to a memory that made me feel something. I am guessing that is why so many people opt for a live Christmas tree rather than a reusable one. It’s not the mess, or hauling it out onto the nature strip that we love. It’s the smell, the feeling that it gives us, the feeling of goodwill, anticipated gifts, gatherings, sumptuous feasts, baking and all those things that make up what it means to experience Christmas.
Associating smell with memories and feelings is a deeply personal one, yet there seem to be some consistent themes in aromas that we want to have around this time of year. For me, it’s the smell of baking and spices in the house that makes me feel like it’s Christmas. Otherwise, all the beautiful decorations and the tree look terribly lonely somehow. Here are a few ideas that I have used to bring all that together in the embrace of Christmas aromas.
- Bake Gingerbread Christmas decorations (see recipe below)
- Make Christmas potpourri (like this one)
- Tie cinnamon and dried oranges to your wreath (you could do it like this)
- Make Christmas-themed candles with essential oils (its easy)
- Make Dried Orange Spice Ornaments (looks gorgeous)
- Bake when you can! Ask your parents or grandparents, friends or neighbours for their favorite recipes and share yours as well. Use the Fareloom app (once released) to save and share all those recipes you collect, so you can find them next time you need them.
Gingerbread Christmas Decorations
You may wish to use a standard Gingerbread recipe. However, recipes with honey, clove, minimal butter or fat and plenty of sugar will be more likely to go the distance, unless they have mysteriously been eaten off the tree before Christmas arrives. This is the recipe that I used and they were on the tree without a problem for 4 weeks. (Humidity may make a difference in how long they last, so a dry environment is preferable).
- 200g Caster Sugar
- 200g Pure Honey
- 70g Butter
- 50g Mixed peel, chopped fine
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 500g Flour
- 90g Almond meal
- 10g Bicarb soda
- 1 teaspoon clove
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons ginger
- Preheat your oven to 180 Degrees Celsius.
- Heat the honey with the butter and sugar until it becomes combined and like a syrup. Take it off the heat as soon as it starts to bubble, and allow to cool until its about body temperature.
- Combine the flour, spices, bicarb and salt together, and pour over the cooled mixture and add the eggs.
- Bring together into a dough and gently knead until the dough is smooth. Rest in the fridge for half an hour.
- Roll out the dough and use desired cookie cutters, remembering to use a skewer to make a hole at the top of the shape. Make this large enough to account for expansion of the dough as it bakes.
- Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
- Allow to cool on a cooling rack, and then decorate with royal icing.
- Thread a ribbon through the hole and they are ready to hang on the tree.