The older I get, the more I look for ways to pretend my memory isn’t a toboggan on a steep hill. Notes help, except when I lose them. A string tied around my finger has allowed me to remember where the keys are, except when I forget to tie the other end to my keychain. If only keys had an alluring smell.
French novelist Marcel Proust, who coined the phrase “Proust moment” when tea and cake took him back him to his childhood, wrote, “…the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us…” Roughly that, except in French. The fact our most enduring memories are linked to aromas (the majority of what we consider taste is in fact being moderated through olfaction) is due to how we handle sensory inputs.
Here’s the thumbnail sketch: Visual, auditory, taste, and tactile inputs pass through the thalamus, a “sorting hat” which routes data for processing elsewhere in the brain. But odors go right from our olfactory bulb to our hippocampus, which is responsible for memory formation. The hippocampus has been shown to be extra strongly related to scent than to some other sense.
For those who’ve ever questioned how Father Christmas retains monitor of so many children and presents, it’s due to a smelly vacation. Certain, the elves can handle Santa’s payroll tax and compile lists of good kids, however I wager Santa would’ve way back fumbled his vacation duties if not for all of the scents that recall the spirit of the season.
He’s obtained aromatic evergreen timber, and certain a whiff of reindeer dung as nicely, to jog his reminiscence. And maybe the scent of cow manure over the North Nation and the trace of crude oil over Bakersfield, CA assist Santa to tweak his place-based recollections.
Though every household observes the vacation season in its personal approach, the widespread thread is that they’ve a singular olfactory signature. Whether or not it’s eggnog, a roasting turkey, or Uncle Ernie’s nauseating cigar, reminiscences of this time usually hyperlink to scent.
Of all of the memorable aromas of the season, I believe nothing evokes its essence fairly just like the fragrance of a fresh-cut Christmas tree. Though nearly all of People who observe Christmas have switched to synthetic timber, the National Christmas Tree Association says 25 to 30 million actual timber are bought within the U.S. yearly. The highest 5 Christmas-tree states are Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Maine, New York, and Washington are vital producers, too.
Each conifer species has its personal mix of sweet-smelling terpenols and esters that account for its “piney woods” incense. Some folks need the perfume of the actual tree they’d as a baby. A pure Christmas tree is, amongst different issues, an enormous vacation potpourri. No chemistry lab could make a plastic tree scent pretty much as good as recent pine, fir, or spruce.
The origins of the Christmas tree are usually not clear, as evergreen timber, wreaths, and boughs have been utilized by many pre-Christian peoples, together with the traditional Egyptians, to represent everlasting life. In sixteenth-century Germany, Martin Luther helped kindle the customized of residence Christmas timber when he introduced an evergreen into his home and adorned it with candles. For hundreds of years, Christmas timber have been taken indoors solely on December 24th and have been stored till after Epiphany on January 6th. (I assume the behavior of stowing a extremely flamable tree in a single’s dwelling house and adorning it with flames will need to have fizzled out with the appearance of fireplace codes.)
By way of crowd-pleasers, the firs – Douglas, Noble, Fraser, and balsam – are hands-down the preferred. Grand and concolor firs are lesser-known members of this group. Firs are particularly fragrant, and when stored in water, have glorious needle retention.
Pines additionally maintain their needles nicely. Whereas our native white pine is extra aromatic than Scots (not Scotch; that’s for Santa) pine, the latter far outsells the previous, presumably as a result of the sturdy Scots can bear numerous decorations with out its branches drooping. I’ve a delicate spot for the white pine, which could stem from its outsized cultural and historic significance because the Tree of Peace for the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), and as a logo of the American Revolution.
Not solely do spruces have stout branches, they have a tendency to have a strongly pyramidal form. Spruces will not be fairly as aromatic as firs or pines, however they’re nice for many who like short-needle timber. Spruces are a breeze to embellish, and end-of-season cleanup is less complicated.
The annual pilgrimage to decide on an actual tree collectively is for a lot of households, because it was for mine, a cherished vacation custom; a time to bond. It was our customized to carry a thermos of sizzling chocolate, and the children’ ritual was to lose at the least one mitten apiece. I recall our time-honored household squabbles – I imply discussions – relating to the very best tree. Good smells and largely good reminiscences.
Not solely are Christmas timber a renewable useful resource, they assist keep about 350,000 acres of perpetually open inexperienced house within the US. In addition they enhance native economies. The Christmas Tree Farmers’ Association of New York will help you discover the closest tree farm.
When you’ve got room within the yard, take into account shopping for a potted Christmas tree. It will be indoors for the vacations, and planted outdoors in a while. This requires a bit extra planning, however it may be a enjoyable household exercise. Even in case you don’t have time to chop your individual tree at a Christmas-tree farm, do your self a favor and buy a pure tree from a neighborhood vendor who may give you recommendations on tree identification and care.
For the very best perfume and needle retention, minimize a one- to two-inch “cookie” from the bottom earlier than inserting your tree within the stand, and fill the reservoir each two days. LED tree lights assist retain needles as nicely. LEDs don’t dry out the needles like older incandescent lights do, and are simpler in your electrical invoice too.
No matter your traditions in the course of the winter holidays, might your evergreens and family members be well-hydrated this season, and should your olfactory bulbs and Christmas bulbs contribute to lasting good reminiscences.
Paul Hetzler is an ISA-Licensed Arborist and a former Cornell Cooperative Extension educator. He’s in all probability searching for his automotive keys proper now.