Smells Like Santa

First: our spam filter catches tons of porn every day, and I am grateful – and you should be too, because most of it is so sick and wrong it makes me yearn for the v!agra spam of yore. But sometimes legitimate comments get tagged as spam, for reasons that elude me. If you´ve lovingly labored over a comment, posted it, and it fails to appear – my apologies, I know how annoying that is. Leave another brief comment saying we´ve lost one, and I´ll put on my biohazard suit and wade into the filter and retrieve it. In a perfect world we´d check every day, but frankly the filth in the spam cesspool is so disturbing and disheartening (incest! animals!) that neither of us can face going in there.

Also: the winners of the Theorema draw: Sybil, Camilla and Gaia! Send me your address via Contact Us.

Down to business: You will be unsurprised to hear that when it comes to holiday décor, More Is More at our house, a view I inherited from my mother, who emerged from her cocoon every year around Thanksgiving and went into a frenzy that lasted into early January. She collected angels, and I still get a twinge when I see one I love in some shop and realize she isn´t here to give it to, although I have added a few to her collection. They join our ridiculous tree (she was partial to odd ornaments – pickles, dinosaurs, deep-sea-divers), the crà¨che, the spinning candle-powered nativity thing, Noah´s ark and the barnyard, the vintage cardboard Christmas village … you get the idea. This year we set up another tree on the front porch, to be joined by the icicle lights, which we just took down in May because I don´t like to rush things. It took awhile to convert the Big Cheese to my way of thinking (his mother believed in a single strand of white lights on the tree, and thought actually ornamenting it was vulgar), but he’s a smart man who picks his battles, and he obviously wasn’t winning this one. I love that guy.

Anyway, we still have to bake and decorate cookies, make a couple sheets of toffee, finish up the window stencils made with Glass Wax (try it, it´s fun!) and go to the joyously tacky Holiday Light Display at the botanical gardens. But in the meantime, here are the scents I seem to reach for this time of year:

1) Etro Messe de Minuit – yeah, I know. To normal folks it smells like mildew. But to me that´s overridden by the spices. A meditative incense fragrance I like to wear to church. However, layered with CB Black March I definitely get that Eau de Crypt thing going on.
2) Armani Prive Bois d´Encens. A brutal, uncompromising incense that I originally found unwearable and eventually bought a bottle of, because it´s a work of art. As cold as the inside of the Sainte-Chapelle in February.
3) L´Artisan Passage d´Enfer – so, are you noting a trend here? I didn´t grow up associating incense with church, but it´s not a hard connection to grasp, even if you´re totally nonreligious. PdeE – my joyous, uplifting incense.
4) Caron Nuit de Noel – the first time I read about this I knew it would be the most perfect, glorious thing I´ve ever smelled. And one of these years I´m going to smell it and that miracle will actually happen. I am powerless against the suggestion of this fragrance.
5) Donna Karan Chaos – there´s something about its woody/solar wonder that is perfect for decorating the tree, going to holiday parties, etc.
6) Serge Lutens Fleurs d´Oranger. The first time I smelled this I hated it – there´s that weird cumin note at the opening. By my third attempt I was hopelessly in love. Lush, over-the-top, one of the very few SLs I wear rather than just admire. My go-to scent on bitter cold days when I’m a bit depressed.
7) CB I Hate Perfume Winter 1972 – the smell of snow. Along with the dirt underneath, wool mittens, and the edge of your ice skates. A cold smell that warms me.

Okay, what gets you in the mood for whatever you´re celebrating (or not) in the next few weeks?

cardboard village and glass wax/stencils (and lots of other fine retro stuff):

  • Maria B. says:

    I want to second Ellen’s recommendation of Miller et Bertaux #2 Spiritus/Land. I recently bought a sample from a place called Fragrant Fripperies. Great decant shop. 😉 The beginning is pure frankincence & myrrh stuff. Then as it dries down, I get an effervescent ginger scent, so effervescent, in fact, that it reminds me of ginger ale in a good way. It’s a very individual scent. On my hubby it turned way too sharp quickly and remained that way.

    Thank you, Ellen, for writing out the names of the scents and makers. Some of us need the extra help. :-” And, Ellen, a friend once invited me for a latkes meal and I felt fortunate to have survived the next day. :d

  • Ellen says:

    Great list. While I love to make latkes, the Morning After fumes are tragic (Morning After Having Eaten Several Pounds of Potatoes & Grease). Vacillate now between wood and spice(but not Montale’s Wood Spice, which smells like something the barber slapped on after the crewcut and shave).

    For incense lovers, I would add iPdF’s Incenso, Villoresi’s Incensi and Spezie, and the wonderful new Heeley I just got as Luckyscent sample — Cardinal (if Avignon is the smell inside the cathedral, Cardinal is the smell with one nostril inside, one still enjoying the crisp outdoors). And Eau d’Italie Sienne L’Hiver!

    But, for me, it’s ginger time. So… Apivita Energy (ginger & lime and CHEAP), Curated by Colette Bless and Hussein Chalayan, and the one I can hardly tear myself away from — Miller et Bertaux #2 Spiritus/Land. Happy happy warm warm! (As is new joy PG Coze, which makes me wish I had a body-sized bottle.)

  • Lauren says:

    Love Nuit de Noel and that precious cardboard village!

  • March says:

    Elle — I had a friend years ago who was adopted, and her parents were very stern and distant. And they were very much into “good works,” which is how they spent all their holidays — demonstrating to their adopted kids (this was her perspective) how lucky they were. And no presents. So all the holidays made her feel guilty and depressed. After she had kids, she decided she had to create a different experience for them. And she did. It was hard – she rejected the fundamentalist faith she’d been brought up in. She borrowed all sorts of things from lots of traditions. My point being only this: if you’re unhappy with your traditions, or lack of them, hey — maybe you can start with a clean slate and make your own.

  • March says:

    Maria — what a wonderful story! I’ve not smelled the extrait, but I can imagine. The EDP is certainly light years better than the wan, sad EDT. As I said to Tigs, maybe it gets less love only because it’s more conventional than Mitsouko and Jicky.

  • March says:

    Tigs — I have the EDP, and it’s beautiful. I wonder if somehow it gets lost in the shadow behind Mitsouko and Jicky. It’s sort of an amped-up Apres L’Ondee. Smacking myself in the head thinking I should wear it more often. See Maria’s excellent comment below yours…

  • March says:

    BBliss — oh, that special subdivision holiday glow! I’d be driving around there tonight, admiring it.

    Re the incense — yeah, off the top of my head, Avignon. But that’s my own imagination; I didn’t grow up smelling incense in church. Have you tried the Armani? To me it’s too austere for what you’re looking for. What about Zagorsk? I can’t remember, but is it Russian orthodox?

  • March says:

    Cheez — I think orange is a natural association this time of year. Satsumas, clementines… Mandragore seems strange to me right now, but who knows? I fell in love with it in February; maybe I’ll go put some on.

    PS your tree sounds perfect.

  • March says:

    VeronicaV — REALLY?!?! Huh. Maybe it’s a good thing I haven’t smelled it after all. Somehow when I read a description it fails to appeal.

  • March says:

    Camilla — see, for a lot of people, Caron is clearly working as a holiday scent. Patty loves Poivre too.

  • March says:

    Veronica — thanks for the suggestions. Actually I need something in the room to cover up the non-smell of the artificial tree:-“

  • March says:

    Gaia — I need to revisit Idole. I was disappointed at the time, but only because I expected something more exotic. I have a feeling I’d be more appreciative now.

  • Elle says:

    Reading your post and these responses makes me actually want to celebrate Christmas…something I haven’t done in almost 20 years due to unfortunate associations. I *love* over the top stuff. Never had it as a child – very sedate Christmases and then heading to an airport Christmas morning for a trip (not to family, just a trip). Now I’m craving a tree I can hang pickles on. And I’ve never even seen an inflatable snow globe, but it seems brilliantly perfect. 🙂

  • Maria B. says:

    I discovered L’Heure Bleue on my first outing away from my parents. A group from our high school went on a cruise to Nassau. One of my cabinmates bought L’Heure Bleue for her much older sister. She unstoppered it to let me have a whiff, and I thought it was the most wonderful, mysterious, almost mystical smell I’d ever perceived.

    A couple of years later I asked my mother for L’Heure Bleue. She bought a bottle of what may have been eau de cologne (not even EdT), and it was unrecognizable as having any roots in common with the poetic scent of my Nassau trip. I even suspected it might have been some dishonest rip-off of it masquerading as the real thing; it was that different.

    Eventually I bought myself the extrait, and the fragrance of my memory came wafting back. I do feel I’m wearing a poem when I have it on.

  • Tigs says:

    Oooo L’Heure Bleue discussion – just what I need. Now, I have always *detested* this in the EdT, which is the only version I have tried: it smells old and stale or something. But knowing as I do that the EdT Guerlains are unspeakable, I looked up the Bois de Jasmin review on the EdP and the extrait and I’m waaaaay too interested.

  • BBliss says:

    Love the decorating descriptions – we are surrounded by Clark Griswalds in every form or fashion – seriously you could land a plane in the fields around our glowing subdivision. We are comparatively restrained on the outside – and inside have all of the sparkly, kitschy, homemade treasures – going back to my husband’s preschool glitter confections circa the 70’s.

    I love Bois de Paradis in the dry cold weather.
    I love the old Lou Lou, too – not because they smell Christmasy, but they smell of Christmas things – warmth, cedar, a little sweet, coziness.

    Here’s an incense question (for both you and Patty) – which incense smells the most like Midnight Mass to you? I haven’t found a dead ringer, though I’ve found some similarities…CdG Avignon is close, but not quite…

  • Cheezwiz says:

    I’m giggling over the Christmas tree with dinosaurs and pickles :d MY KIND of PEOPLE!!!

    I have a major fetish for anything shiny and sparkly and consequently have waaay too many ornaments: giant onion shaped bulbs, iridescent glass balls, shiny bead garlands. Basically I try and cram my sad little artificial tree with as much glittery decor as it can hold. Seriously, there is something wrong with me.

    I don’t have a Christmas scent, but if I did, it would probably smell orangey. I think Annick Goutal’s Mandragore might be nice (although light) since it’s sort of woodsy/citrusy and green.;)

  • VeronicaV says:

    March! Just wanted to warn you that the Pliska actually makes me want to hurl after about……two-three minutes of smelling it. I have no idea what it is that makes me react so violently, but I’m keeping the sample the SA gave me last Christmas in case I need to drop a quick coupla pounds….:-“

  • Camilla says:

    Your Christmas list is yummy and from your description, so is your taste in decorating. I love Holiday excess in almost every form. For me, the mingling of carnations, clove, cinnamon and vanilla = Christmas, and Caron’s Poivre is my favorite at this time of year.

  • Veronicasaurus Rex says:

    Just wanted to add a few more holiday favorites:

    Aqua Allegoria Winter Delice, Guerlain
    Season’s Greedings, The Goth Rosary
    Holiday, Slatkin & Co.
    Noël, Crabtree and Evelyn (a nonsectarian scent with a Christian name)

    The Holiday and Noël are labelled as ‘home fragrances’ so if you don’t have the ornaments – don’t try it as ‘personal fragrance’.

  • Donna Karan’s Black Cashmere. I hear that it’s a variation on Chaos. On me, it smells very much like Idole, which I also love. Other wintery scents for me are SL’s Cedre and Cartier’s La Baiser Du Dragon. There’s a woody theme here…

  • March says:

    Emote — we live in a fairly multi-cultural (pan-ethnic?) area, and it’s kind of neat watching everyone square the belief systems. We have a number of friends whose kids celebrate Christmas AND Hanukkah (which, okay, I’ve never been quite able to sort out) and it seems to work for them. Also the Solstice, and/or just Greed.

    YEah, I think Hanukkah should smell like latkes. I love your fragrance list. I think FdeO or Divine is my Fracas. I wish OJ woman smelled better on me, it’s so lovely.

  • March says:

    Maria — yeah, that’s it — the mildew smell goes away really quick! FWIW my sister-in-law wears it and it smells like roses on her, so go figure.

    I adore L’Heure Bleue. How come it doesn’t get more love? I should stick it in a post.

  • Pam says:

    March, yes, I’m rather square and safe, huh, with my frag list. And, yes, I’m the one who sent you the Apercu. I think it’s wonderful; it makes me sad that it seems rather unknown. Your post on it a while back was so beautiful, too.

    You cain’t have my potato!! Forgot to mention there’s a carrot on the tree, too. 🙂

    PS: I like those big inflatable snow globes, too. Can’t talk the mister into one. Not yet, anyway.

  • March says:

    Andy — thanks. That’s actually a much better way of looking at the problem. I have no objection to the between-adults stuff. I mean, who cares? But the rest of it creeps me out.

  • March says:

    Vi — with the kids we made a decision awhile ago to ramp the gifting down. So we just do a lot of goofy experiential things, which is what they want anyway. Even my too-cool-for-school 12YO likes going to see the Santa Train or whatever.

    Chaos. I was dumb to fall in love with it now, but my heart isn’t reasonable, you know? Maybe she’ll re-release it. A girl can dream.

  • March says:

    Angela — oh, I am having so much fun picturing your living room! Did you just sort of hurl it around? Or is it the really old fashioned tin kind?:-?

    I miss digging tinsel out of the couch in July.

  • March says:

    Tigs — but a lifelong inability to do crafts is so PRECIOUS!!! Allow me to invite you over to gaze in wonder at our deformed snowmen and three-horned Satanic reindeer. These are the moments I treasure. Hey, ANYONE can have a tasteful tree, but how many people have Sputnik?

    But more important — you MAKE marzipan fruit? How did I not know this vital detail? I didn’t know anyone made it … elves or something. Do you eat it? I love marzipan. I could probably win some sort of gross fear-factor marzipan contest.

  • March says:

    Pam — I’m jealous! I want a potato.:-w That’s a great list. I’m thinking of you as Classic Christmas.

    Hey … aren’t you the one who turned me on to Apercu?:x I’ll owe you forever for that.

  • March says:

    Carole — thanks. Actually, I see pickles often enough that I knew they represented something. The dinosaur represents me. Also the crab. The cactus is my husband…. I’ll stop there.

  • March says:

    Patty — well, I don’t think it will blow up. But I recommend one of those lightbulb diffuser things, they work great. It’s just a little metal ring and you rest it on the lightbulb and turn it on. Desert Marocain works great in there.

  • March says:

    Leopoldo — what is Santa bringing you? Have you been a naughty boy?:-?

    You’re getting switches. But who will wield them?

  • March says:

    Patty — you have to quit commenting because I, like, peed myself reading that. I am WILD for the Hanging Dead Guy as Santa.

    Okay, I’ll confess. I am desperate for one of those inflatable 5-foot light-up “snow globe” things full of the styrofoam beads blowing around. But the Cheese said I could have one along with my divorce papers. Even he has his limits.:(

    Scrabble at our house is a contact sport and contains obscenities, on and off the board.

  • March says:

    Marina — well, I knew Mr. C had excellent taste in women, and this just confirms it! What is UP with that “tasteful” thing?!? EMBRACE the Santa-Holding-a-Menorah awfulness of XMas in the USofA!!! Snow Globes! Moving reindeer! On, Dasher!!!o:-)

    I want Santy to bring me that stuff you reviewed today.

  • Patty says:

    I love incense!! BdE is just the best thing in the world, though a friend and my DH looked at me and asked why I wanted to smell like Mass. I mean, to get some holy stuff to rub off on me, that’s y!

  • March says:

    Leopoldo — I’d like my house to smell like an hourly rotation of someone else cooking dinner and paying the bills.

    You know, I can barely write you now without giggling. I keep conjuring up past comments. I wish you’d come visit!

  • March says:

    Judith!!! (furiously taking notes) You know, if you love AN that much I just have to give it another go, that’s all there is to it. I’ve probably been contaminated by Patty’s hatred.

    Also, what do you think of Anne Pliska? How is it I fail to run across something so culty? Is it all amber?

  • March says:

    Patty — I’m never sure about you and incense. Do you like them mixed with something? I thought you liked the Armani, but not so sure. Or, do you like the way they smell (like the CdG ones) but don’t necessarily want to wear them?

    The NNoel I have faith I will love someday, because even a dim bulb like me can see how stunning it is.

  • March says:

    Chaya — oh, I wish those smelled good on me. I smelled FdeB on a friend the other day and it was heartbreakingly beautiful. Sorry I wasn’t clearer — I HAVE smelled Nuit de Noel. I wish it smelled as good to me as it sounds…:”>

  • March says:

    Kaylina — I totally forgot about the gingerbread! That’s a great scent. It’s interestingly non-foody — sort of the idea of the whole house, not just the sweet.

  • Emotenote says:

    It’s hard to come up with a Hanukkah smell, eau de candle Wax perhaps? Or Potato pancakes fume’? One year we tried getting a tree and calling it a Hanukkah bush but my daughter and I were violently allergic. We do deck our halls pretty thoroughly though, and the window wax sounds cool, I’m going to check it out.

    Thanks to March my new holiday party faviorite (but only with a long gown) is Fracas. It’s just nice to be queen of the world once in a while. PdeE is right up there on the almost everyday list (or, after the sample of the day has disappeared). I agree with you on the cumin in the Fleurs, it took getting used to.

    I’ve also tried Andy’s Orris layered with a tiny touch of extra rose or amber and it reminds me of winters in Boulder for some reason. Cedre is my fav for out-in-the-cold wear, I like the smell creeping out my collar under my coat. Creed’s Love in White worked really nicely for cold flower wear. Ormond Women is my short coctail dress Christmas party choice. That’s my Queen of the world in disguise, trying to seduce a secret agent at the Baccarat table scent. I also find Tolu very agreeable, on me there is a slight mint that turns up in the warmth that gives it a cozy cabin in the woods smell.

  • Maria B. says:

    Greetings, everyone! My husband and I looove Messe de Minuit, and we reach for it even more at this time of year. It wasn’t really a surprise to me that one of my life’s ambitions was to smell like a church–but a crypt? Well, the mildew accord 😉 only hits me the first moment. I also wear L’Artisan L’Eau d’Ambre a lot at this time, and now that I have a sample, Ambre Extreme. For dress-up occasions (like our recent anniversary) I put on L’Heure Bleue or Habanita, my faves.

    I’ve been burning this year’s holiday candle by Slatkin & Co, which is called Aspen Winter, though it’s a dead ringer for last year’s candle, which was called Holiday. Its orangy pomander scent wafts even when it’s not lit, which is a bonus.

    My husband and I are absolute Christmas tree ornament nuts. We’ve had to get auxiliary ornament hanging devices. Unfortunately, we have a big Deparment 56 store near us. =:-0

  • Andy says:

    March,Imagining you in your biosuit, wading through the spam swamp… hohoho… on the side: I have from time to time to do the same. But I need tranquilizers…to stop me from laughing too much. It becomes so ridiculous after a while!

  • violetnoir says:


    I much prefer the thankfulness of Thanksgiving to crazy commercialization of Christmas. so this year I am paring it down.

    We have a new puppy, so a lot of my time is spent getting her acclimated to our hectic household. Our tree will be much smaller and off the floor, and I will probably bake less elaborate cookies. My husband and I agree that Christmas is way too material and commercial, so I am trying to cut back on spending.

    The good news is that our anniversary is two days after Christmas, and we do enjoy spending Christmas Eve and Christmas day eating yummy food with our large extended family. We have much to celebrate! 😡

    Chaos is amazing, isn’t it? I also love Passage. I will have to re-test Nuit de Noel and FdO (I like M-M better).


  • AngelaS says:

    Alpona is a fabulous Christmas scent. It smells to me like an orange pulled from a stocking in a Victorian painting.

    I’m all in favor of the full-bore Christmas, too. I found three virgin boxes of tinsel at a yard sale over the summer, and now my living room is a silver morass.

  • Tigs says:

    My mother was the Christmas kid too, although she has two trees at home now: one decorated in full Martha Stewart style and one with all our hideous homemade ornaments on it. My brothers love putting all my ornaments – with names like “the Sputnik” – on the front of the tree to showcase my lifelong inability to do crafts. (Although I am a world-class marzipan fruit maker…)

    I am going through some wonderful samples lately, but I would be wearing Chene and Nicolai Pour Homme, I think. And maybe Nuit de Noel, just to keep the dream alive.

  • Pam says:

    March, we also have a pickle on our Christmas tree, plus a potato and tomato. No dinos, though we have a few rockets that hang nicely by my Victorian ornaments and the sequined ornaments I made in high school. Such a mish mash of everything, but they all seem to work together.

    Hee hee, I thought it was only people where I live that left their lights up ’til May. :d

    Anyway, my holiday scents are Arpege, Ma Griffe, 1000, Nuit de Noel, Poivre & li’l sis Coup, Opium, Apercu, Parfum Sacre and Patou’s L’Heure Attendue and Colony. Happy Holidays to everyone.

  • carole says:

    Did you know the significance of the pickle? I just learned it-it was to be put on the tree on Christmas Eve, and the first child who found it on Christmas Day was to have good luck. At least, that is what the little card said on the pickle I bought for my parents. Have no idea what the dinosaur stands for!

  • Patty says:

    L — try AN and Arabie in a bowl over a low flame. 8-x Love you back!

    Kidding! I keep trying to figure out if I dare put a little puddled bowl of perfume under the candle warmer and see what happens. I think I need to wait until the males return before I do that so they can prevent a large, explosive accident.

  • Leopoldo says:

    I love you daft ladies more and more.

  • Patty says:

    BTW, as you know, I am totally with you on the big, extravagant displays. We’re way behind with getting it up this year, so we’ll have to make up for it by putting up one of those ginormous snow globes on the front lawn and maybe a reindeer on the roof?

    One year we tried to figure out how to use the old cart in the garage and the leftover hanged guy from the Halloween display to do Santa and his sleigh up in the tree with Santa hanging off of the sleigh by… well, we still had the noose, but I wouldn’t let Harry use that (he put it in the tree by the alley, and I think this makes the neighbors afraid of us???), and we just got stuck then in a rules argument which are similar to our Scrabble rules arguments — esoteric, stupid and loud. Oh, wait, those are the same ones I had with my brothers and sister over Monopoly and Rummy Royale when we were growing up.

  • Marina says:

    Love your scent list, March! Mr Colombina also thinks that More is More when it comes to Christmas decorations. I shudder at the thought of Christmases that we’ll have if or when we move to a house. I am thinking that MR. C’s plentiful house and lawn decorations would make Tim Taylor jealous. Me, I’d prefer a few tasteful decorations, all in one color, gold or silver, with maybe a few specks of red or green. But I lose the battle every Christmas :d

  • Leopoldo says:

    I’d like my house to smell of, in hourly rotation, Ambre Narguilé and Arabie. Maybe I could buy one of those multiscent plugin thingamijigs and pour some in…

  • Judith says:

    Well, you certainly reminded me of wonderful winter scents I forgot when posting on Ina! From your list, I will definitely take Messe de Minuit, Bois d’Encens, and Chaos (I love PdE but I find myself wearing it more in warmer weather). And I will add Mazzolari Mazzolari, Fumerie Turque, Rose de Nuit, Regina Harris original, and (my all-time holiday perfume) Ambre Narguile.

  • Patty says:

    Did I not send you Nuit de Noel? Maybe I better not…mumble,CAronbase,mumble — and then you can keep that dream alive?

    I don’t think I have a Christmasy scent except any of the Carons, mostly Nuit de Noel and Poivre, though I do throw in a lot more incenses, the ones you mention at the top of the list.

  • Elle says:

    The scents that seem ideal for this time of year are Agraria Balsam, Chene and Mazzolari Mazzolari, which all smell somewhat of Xmas trees to me. And iPdF Spezie, MPG’s Secret Melange, Agraria Bitter Orange and Diptyque L’Eau are also great holiday scents (cinnamon, cloves, etc.). And I madly adore Nuit de Noel and CB’s Winter ’72.

  • chayaruchama says:

    Well, gorgeous-
    Your DH is a seriously smart man, and a keeper…

    Any of the original variations on the FdB theme do it for me, especially Un Santal de Mysore, and Bois Oriental; Vanille Tonka; Shalimar parfum [big time!]; Bellodgia parfum, too.
    Have you really never smelled Nuit de Noel?
    [Would you like to? I could send you some…]:d

  • Kayliana says:

    CB I hate perfume’s Gingerbread, I could pour it over my head I think… YUM!!!