Christmas time, arguably the most magical time of the year oftentimes, turns into the most magically hectic and taxing season of the year. What can often feel like mission-hardly possible (to strike a fine balance between bliss and overexerting oneself) inspired us to craft a simplified cheat sheet on how to create memorable experiences and savor the holidays, by...
investing our time and efforts where they will make the most notable and memorable impact.
In the era where synthetic garlands, garish colored/over-glittered plastic wreaths, inflatable Santas of inhuman proportions and acid tone led-lights overtake what seems every other household and garage storage throughout the year, let us revert and emulate decorating practices from a more simple time when winter was celebrated much before Christmas. Our pagan ancestors had a beautiful custom of foraging for greenery and bringing it into our dwellings so that during long winter months they would also be surrounded by the beauty of nature. Opting for just a few natural wreaths and garlands on door/window or mantelpiece delicately interthread with a few bright, festive pomegranates, dried flowers or pears will add just a touch of sublime festivity. Sometimes even a single garnet-colored velvet ribbon is more poignant, elevated and effective in conveying the feeling of celebratory joyfulness than piles of sparkling ornaments.
However, it is the second decor element that most profoundly affects the way we feel in the space as it possesses the most transformational quality of all, LIGHT. While our ancestral survival depended on the use of fire in their homes for warmth, cooking and lighting, our primal need and sense of protection and security that we often tie to the very heart is unalterable. Light as a symbol as well as a phenomenon was particularly venerated during the long, cold winter nights and this very tradition is still at the core of Christmas. For this reason, using strategically placed warm glowing strands of lights and groupings of varied height candles throughout our spaces will evoke that warmth exuded by the glow of the lit fireplace. Long waxy pillars in deep colors of mossy greens, stormy navy blues, crimsons or simply a natural golden beeswax in a candle holder will elevate and add romantic glow to every space, particularly if grouped and mixed with a variety of glass jars or thick-cut crystal glasses whose patterns will come alive and mesmerizingly dance on the surrounding walls. - Helena
Scent, more than any other sensation, carries a memory of times gone by and has the reincarnation ability that allows us to simultaneously be present and lost in the past. At Christmas more so than any other season the memories of the past and the importance of being alertly present in the moment to successfully create new memories are palpable. A recognizable scent has the potent ability to not only make us marvel at the memories in present stillness, but also to awaken all of our senses serving as a pathway to return us to that sacred place within ourselves. While notes of woody cedars and pines as well as a heartwarming amalgam of vanilla, chocolate, spicy-peppery ginger and vivacious citrus tend to dominate the holiday season, I gravitate to scents that are more reminiscent of notes that happen to be historically more closely tied to sacral ceremonies performed during the Advent times. Frankincense, myrrh which happen to be two of the three gifts the Magi presented to baby Christ, copal. The mixture of incense paired with smoky wood tends to remind me of Christmases of my childhood and my favourite candles of the season include Buly 1803-Sacre and Trudon's Spiritus Sancti. - Helena
The Holiday season, with its promise of presents, parties, and sweet childlike anticipation seems to amplify both cheer and melancholy. And the soundtrack is polarizing, I get it. I remember being young and feeling excitement as the first frost hit. It meant that my Mom would start to unpack all the big brown boxes that smelled of some forgotten Holiday scent, turn on the Christmas tunes, and voila! the Holidays had begun.
Have you heard of the “reminiscence bump”? This is the name for the sensation that one gets when they hear a familiar piece of music and it consequently brings up other sensory responses or emotions. Christmas music has that bump. I realize that it’s a crime in some circles, but I love Christmas songs.
I worked retail at the Cottonwood Mall as a teenager. When the Holidays rolled around, I would spin (on CD, folks) the Nat King Cole Christmas Album over and over again, possibly to the despair of my coworkers. Nat’s smooth baritone and cosmopolitan accent transported me to some other time. Are we in New York or London in the 1960’s? I could just hear the producers, engineers, and Cole himself blowing in to the studio off the cold streets of the city, shedding their wool scarves and jackets and getting down to business with a cocktail and cigarette as they recorded another timeless hit song. Sounds perfect to me! Here’s a little seasonal playlist that just might stir up that bump. - Jeremy