The therapeutic smells of Christmas

I wish you could smell my kitchen.

It smells like Christmas.

img_0022For me that doesn’t mean evergreens, but the living room and stairs smell like that. It smells like mulled cider. It smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, apples, oranges, and awesomeness.

I’m not saying I was a rockin’ Pinterest mom today, I wasn’t. I yelled, I fussed, I got up late. I had a headache. I indulged in a few mean words.

However. None of that is the smell. None of that is a complete measure of my parenting. We all fail. But the smell of peace eventually worked its way into all of us.

Smell memories are the most powerful in the world. I can prove it. Any of you who grew up going to a public school know the smell of teenage boys. Pubescent teenage boys. I think that is the nastiest smell in the world. You know it because it lingers in all gyms, all weight rooms, all lockers. And it wrinkles people’s noses when they think of it. Most of us recall a shamefilled time that came with that smell. I know I remember more than a few.

So back to my kitchen, which only smells like the one teenage boy in it right now, and the overwhelming smell is still cider. For me that smell means gifts, love, time with my mom, quiet moments under twinkling lights. It means peace, love, kindness. (I know I said love twice. I meant it a few more times) it settles me when my head hurts in the morning and I want to crawl back under the bolster, with a book, and a hot drink.

It gives me courage. It is beginning to do the same for my kids.

We don’t do a lot of Christmas because it wasn’t a happy thing for the kids at first. Too much sensory input, too many expectations of great behavior. The list goes on. So I focused on one thing. The smell. What do I want this holiday to smell like. How can I teach their hind-brain (The part that listened during PTSD) that this smell means it’s okay to settle.

Now we do 3 gifts each (With one Dad always buys the week of Christmas) we eat sweet food, we listen to the same 3 albums, and we sit closer together. That smell reminds them of what’s coming.

Here is the recipe so that you can try it. It might take years, but we are growing mighty trees out of our little saplings. We have that time. Even if this year falls apart. Make you house smell one way from now until Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and do it again next year. The idea will seep in so deep they won’t even know how it appeared. Other holidays need other smells too. But we will talk about those as they get closer.

Recipe for Christmas Holiday Smells


One pot of water, the biggest you have. Make sure not to let the water get low. And do not leave it on when you leave the house.

2 Oranges. Slice in half, squeeze over pot and drop each piece in.

1 Lemon. Do the same thing as the Orange.

2 apples. Cut and put into the pot. Quarters is enough.

2 cinnamon sticks or 4 Tbsp. of cinnamon

2 tsp. Nutmeg

Boil. Refill with water as needed. That’s it.

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