Christmas Collaborative

On this Christmas Eve, we’re sure everyone is running around like those proverbial chickens with their heads cut off, and the last thing on your mind is reading a perfume review. So, all the elves at the Posse decided to give you, dear readers, a Christmas present: some holiday memories from the vault. We hope you enjoy them. Merry Christmas.

ANITA: I’m not a huge fan of Christmas.  For one, it’s a whole lotta pressure for One Day – what if you wake up and you are Not In The Mood?  What do you do then?  For another, I don’t like hanging around in my pajamas – really!  I’m That Kinda Gal.  A shower-get dressed (WITH SHOES) kinda control-freak gal.  I didn’t use (used) to be like that, though?  All those photos of me and my brother, in our pjs, having a great time….

Growing up we had some great Christmases…my favorite memories are of specific ornaments – y’all have any of those wackadoo ornaments that mean nothing to anyone else in the world…but mean the world to you?  Mine was this delicate porcelain-headed angel.  She had a pink maribou skirt (cardboard underskit) and she was a thing of beauty.  My brother’s, equally beloved, angel was this incredibly cheesy styrofoam cutout with glitter…don’t ask.. mine was a thousand times better…but you couldn’t tell it by the bliss on both of our faces, as those angels were stuck on that tree.

I found my brother’s angel ornament a few years after my mom passed and I finally got around to unpacking our family Christmas decorations.  The thing was a shell of its formerly shell-like self (this was cheap styrofoam, remember? – I wonder who gave him that tacky thing – and why he loved it so) .. anyway, it was headless and had only 1/3 of a wing left…but it took me back to 1962, when the world was still all about What You Got for Christmas and did mom make enough corn pudding to go around and would there be snow – please let there be snow…and……cliche, I know, but it really was a simpler time.. I got such a kick putting it up on tree again.  Alas, it was the last year it went up on the tree.  I did say cheap styrofoam, remember?  The following year I unpacked the ornaments and ….it was foamy dust.  But hey!  it lasted nearly 45 years!  And my brother loved knowing it was on the tree, at least one more time.

Btw – that cheesy angel outlasted my chic angel by 20 years, like a mutt v. a purebred.  Maribou stuck on cardboard….somewhere, that cheesy angel is laughing his headless self right into Cheesy Angel Heaven.

MARCH: I was late arriving to the annual holiday chorale at the local Presbyterian church on Sunday.  It’s this time of year when I feel most acutely the distance between my desires for my life and reality.  The sun was just setting, it was bitterly cold, and the church was jam-packed.  I ended up sliding in near the front, two pews from the Christmas tree, next to an elderly gentleman who was already nodding off in the toasty warmth.

I was wearing Mandragore, simply because that’s what I’d put on that morning; Victoria at Bois de Jasmin and I have chatted about how we’re drawn to cologne-y scents this time of year, they seem so refreshing and hopeful.  The church had run out of concert programs so each piece was a surprise.  I settled in.  I smelled the familiar church scents from my childhood Christmases – the fir tree, candles, old wood and wax, and knew myself both blessed and happy.

Toward the end they dimmed the lights so that only the lit Christmas tree was visible.  I thought, this cannot be more perfect.  And then the choir began to sing, a capella, in the darkness, Christina Rossetti’s simple, beautiful words, rendered in the old hymn: In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone…  Best Christmas present ever.

NAVA: As a Jew, I’ve never technically celebrated Christmas, but I did love going over to my next-door neighbors as a kid, in my pajamas, to watch them open their gifts. There was always one under the tree for me, and it made me feel like part of the family to sit there in my jammies watching them open their gifts. My mother would always send over some latkes with me, sharing a little bit of Hanukkah with our Italian-Catholic friends. There was nothing religious about it, and it always gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling to be included. I still think about those Christmas mornings every year, and the memories never fail to warm my heart. Then, it’s on to a movie and some Chinese food.

PATTY:  Christmas Eve growing up is when our farm world came to a stop.  Yeah, we still had cows to milk that night and twice the next day, but my parents wound down and stopped giving us extra chores, so it was a huge vacation for us.  Every year, we had all spent a couple of Saturdays at the Baptist Church (I converted to Catholicism later in life), learning our parts for the Christmas Eve program, which always included “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” with lots of hissing ssssssssss’es.  And every Christmas Eve, my mother would bundle us all up, my dad would wave goodbye to us since he wouldn’t step foot into that church again — oh, there’s a story there.  He used to go every week as a kid, and one Sunday when he was probably 13 or 14 he and his friends and probably a brother or four were sitting in the back, someone farted – not him, oddly enough – and he laughed, as did most of the other boys. His uncle was the preacher, stopped whatever barn-burner sermon he was on, and said, “Dick, since you can’t behave with your friends, you’ll need to come up front and sit with your mom and dad.”  He was mortified, but figured he deserved it. But when Uncle Curly didn’t call out any of the other boys who had laughed, he just got mad. He had an overdeveloped sense of justice and was willing to do the time for his crimes, but wanted to make sure everyone else did theirs.  He swore from that moment on he would never set foot in that church again. And he didn’t, except for funerals of his parents and brothers and sisters and, finally, his own funeral.

So he stayed behind while all five of us kids and mom went to that little country church out in the middle of nowhere. The real tree they had scraped the ceiling, and the smell of pine was everywhere.  Back then they had those bubbling oil candles on there – I think at one point they had real lit candles! on there – and big ornaments, and underneath the tree was what seemed like a mountain of presents – one for every child in the Christmas program.  And when we were done, they’d pass out the presents, and also pass out a little brown bag of goodies – milk chocolate stars, orange slices, peanuts, walnuts, ribbon candy.  They always gave us one extra for “Uncle Dick.”

When we arrived back home, throwing off our coats, running into the house, we’d give Dad his little bag, which he was hollering for when the door opened, just to make sure we didn’t make off with it. He’d paw through it, pulling out the orange slices, which he loved, and the peanuts. Then we’d each have to hand him our sack, after we’d taken out the stuff we really wanted, and he’d take out the peanuts and things he wanted that we didn’t care about.  This took the rest of the evening as we happily chomped through our Christmas treats, told stories of who had screwed up during the Christmas program, laughed, until we fell into bed, waiting for 4 a.m. when the house would be alseep and we could sneak out into the living room and start unwrapping presents.

But those two days, my parents were both soft and sweet – it was like Christmas waved a magic wand over them, and no matter how little we had, how few or many presents we could afford that year, they would set aside all the worries of the farm and never-ending work and stress.  It was their gift to us.

Merry Christmas!!!

TOM: Christmas in my family was a Big Deal. Not so much about the presents, since my parents didn’t believe in giving extravagant gifts on that holiday. We didn’t get bikes on Christmas (which since it was December in New England would have been more torture than tribute), we got model cars (me), Barbie detritus (sis), and radio-related stuff (big brother). Luckily they didn’t give necessities as gifts the way that some of my neighbors did: there were no passive-aggressively wrapped packets of underwear masquerading as Christmas presents at my house, thanks. The big deal was about the decorating. The tree wasn’t real. My mother I think didn’t want the mess of a real one. In my re-written family history I tend to paint her as a tireless defender of the forest, standing up to the needless slaughter of conifers by using and reusing a fake tree every year. Surely that had to be the reason since the particular tree in question was basically a thick green-painted wooden pole into which different sized individual branches were placed, a process that took about four hours. Of course this also meant that at the year end the tree had to be carefully packed back up, lest the various lengths of branches got mixed up making next years set-up like a jigsaw puzzle that’s all one color. Other boxes of ornaments and lights were brought down from the attic tested and inspected, new ornaments and light strands were added as old ones wore out or the theme for this year was changed. The tree could be all blue lights and tinsel one year, white lights and red ornaments another, colored lights and hodgepodge a third. What never varied was the placement: in the large picture window in the family room facing the small park on the corner that lent out street its name. The eaves of the two porches were strung with lights, electric candles were in all the street-side windows and I’m sure if she could have engineered it that would have been a Santa ho-ho-hoing on the roof. The first thing anyone cresting the hill on Pine Street would see was our house, blinking blinding holiday cheer. People made a point to drive by. There were also parties, open houses for the neighbors with cocktails and the particularly lethal eggnog we were allowed just a taste of, mostly to keep us from ever asking to again. New neighbors would grudgingly accept a cup, taste that it had more bourbon in it than the state of Kentucky and happily quaff; we thought it disgusting. It was the 70’s and people still drank, and a small town so not many needed to drive.

Christmas morning was sheer torture. We had to get up and eat breakfast before opening our gifts; everything in it’s proper order, thank you. Standards, you know. I think it might also have been punishment for having previously opened our (well, mine certainly) gifts. My parents and my siblings and I had a running, unspoken years-long war over the idea that gifts should be a surprise. When I became about 9 or so I started to stealthily unwrap my presents and wrap them back up rather adroitly. Just one end, so I could see what it was. The next year preventative measures were taken; the gifts were double wrapped. Then boxed up and wrapped. Then wrapped and hidden in the attic. One memorable year, they were secreted someplace in the house and despite searching every corner of two attics, 15 closets and every room in the cellar we were stumped. Until it occurred to me: the car. The wagon was out- all open space. But Mom’s Oldsmobile? Massive trunk, closed up. Of course we didn’t have the keys to that massive trunk. Dad and I used to play chess and in my head I heard “Check”. But in one of those rare moments as in chess where you realize your opponent on the board has made a fatal error, I tried the driver’s door. It was unlocked, as it would be in a closed garage in New England in the 70’s. Then I tried the glove box. Unlocked, giving access to the shiny black button that popped the trunk for you, something Dad forgot. Check and mate.

Sadly between Thanksgiving and Christmas the next year my father had a fatal heart attack while on business in Germany. Token gifts were bought, but until my mother died and the house was sold that tree never left the attic. My last several Christmases were spent with the family of my godchild, reliving decorating the tree (real this time), making the over-the-years more hilariously complicated holiday cards (so complicated one year they were finally in the mail in February) and invariably receiving a 7am phone call to please come over now because said godchild wants to open gifts but refuses to do so until I am present. It’s the only 7am phone call I’m ever happy to get.

I’m even finally old enough to enjoy the eggnog…

  • LindaB says:

    Just catching up on my Posse after all my holiday madness has finally subsided. Working today on NYE and not doing much of anything tonight, so yes, for me, the holidays are over. (Kind of glad, honestly!).
    Anyhow, this post is beautiful and I teared up several times here in my office. I also had a few chuckles and ageeing head nods.
    THanks for sharing this…and hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

  • Nancy says:

    I loved the memories you shared. Some parts of it were included in my family too. But my most fond memory and one that carries one is reading the scriptures, the Holy Bible and all that it foretold to come to pass and to come….Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is give; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor; Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And remembering and reading Linus from Peanuts reciting from Luke 2…the Shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold and angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory fo the Lord shone around them…and said not to be afraid,”For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” This and more makes my Christ mas whole knowing what the Christ did for me as His life progressed to death and resurrection to save my soul. It is too cool and awesome that He would do so for anyone who would believe. Thank you for allowing me to write on. Thank you too for all the wonderful reviews and insights y’all have.

  • Merry Christmas to all of you. And from the alternative view: I’m celebrating Christmas like I do every year–eating Chinese food and going to a movie!

    • Musette says:


      Thank Floyd we have a vast store of DVDs – we’re going to watch Pocketful of Miracles (Bette Davis). Were we to plan on the movies we would have to hire a dog-sled. No traveling today, thanks!

      Happy Christmas!

      xo >-)

      • I was amazed that the theater was so full. Maybe other cultures are also starting to go to the movies on Christmas, too. Went to see True Grit, which was great. Whatever you celebrate, hope it was lovely!

  • Victoria says:

    Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope that you have a lovely start of this holiday season!

  • Mals86 says:

    How wonderful to get a peek at your Christmas memories, Posse! Thanks so much.

    What I loved so much about the Christmases of my childhood was that they were, by and large, the *same* every year. Christmas Eve at my grandparents – same menu, same dinner with the good china and candles, and then afterward presents and an hour’s drive home, with carols on the radio (and this was in the days when you could only find carols on the radio those two special days). Christmas morning we’d get up, check the stockings, and then roust out our parents. My other grandmother would come in with her video camera, a big silver-and-black thing with lights the size of saucers… I’m sure that somewhere my mother has those early 70s Christmas reels. We’d eat homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast.

    These days, each year seems different to me, but there’s always at least one moment where it is perfectly Christmas – whether that’s the wide eyes of a child, or setting up the Nativity Scene, or hearing that one lovely carol. Each year, the magic happens.

    I’ve always loved “In the Bleak Midwinter”: Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow on snow…

  • nozknoz says:

    Anita, March, Nava, Patty and Tom – thank you for sharing these wonderful Christmas memories, and for your posts and comments here on Perfume Posse throughout the year!

    This year, perfume appreciation reunited me with one of my favorite Christmas memories: my grandmother’s bubble lights. Trawling ebay for vintage perfume, I came across vintage bubble lights and soon found the exact variation that my grandmother had (1950s Royalites, made in Pawtucket R.I., in their original box), now gracing my little tree as I type. So I guess I can thank Perfume Posse for Christmas memories in more way than one! :-)

  • Tara says:

    What truly beautiful stories! Thank you so much for sharing a little piece of your special memories, they each touched me in a different and wonderful why.

    This Christmas Eve we are cooking and wrapping and now that the kids are older (read no longer believe in Santa) maybe squeeze in a movie (We love going to the movies!!!) and tomorrow it will be eating, playing and relaxing with another family. I can’t wait!!!

    Merry Christmas everyone!!

  • pam says:

    Thank all of you for sharing your holiday memories. What a beautiful post!

    I will be spending this Christmas Eve with my family (children and grandchildren) who came for the holidays. Then, later, I will be playing the organ at church for the 5:00 pm service (full of children wiggling in the pews) and again for the midnight Mass (fewer children, more incense). Then tomorrow we stay in all day smelling the turkey roasting.

    Merry Christmas, Posse!

  • Kate says:

    Thank you for sharing these memories with us. And thank you all for all the hard work throughout the year creating this wonderful community of fragrance-loving men and women so we can share this insane and lovely hobby together.

    Merry Christmas to all,

  • Shelley says:

    “Relax; remember, the most important thing you are creating is a memory.” A mantra that served me well when things got a bit much as a young parent trying to figure out how to “create” a holiday.

    Happy happy to you, ornaments, carol, farm, jammies, and Oldsmobile and all.

  • Alice C says:

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories–it made me cry. Thinking now of my parents, now gone, and how they made Christmas magical for me and my two sisters. Both sets of my grandparents lived in the same town with us, but none of the aunts, uncles and cousins lived here. Everyone came to our grandparents for Christmas, and every year some of them stayed with us. Sometimes a few cousins spent the night, sometimes some of the grownups. Christmas Eve our house bustled with people. There was always a huge fire in the fireplace (even if the Texas weather would dictate otherwise), plenty of eggnog (I’m old enough to drink it now, too!), and we would all go to Church for the Christmas Eve candlelight service. The service ended at midnight with everyone holding a candle. Then it was home and off to bed, where we got very little sleep in anticipation of the morning….

    Merry Christmas to you all and have a very happy New Year!

  • Winifreida says:

    Well its thirty minutes past midnight in Australia… its officially Christmas Downunder…we’ve had a Chrissy Eve get together with a couple of best friends and I decided to cook a really detailed recipe of king prawns (giant shrimp????) in a pine nut/macadamia crumb thingy on a bed of salad leaves with aoli, with a berry sauce and ice cream dessert and despite being rather too full of bubbly wine from an earlier get-together with friends where some of my horses are agisted, I managed to serve it all up…am sitting here thinking of the spectral network of perfumistas and the wonderful joyous adventure the last couple of years have been…

    Its hot and humid here and I started with Philosykos and finished with Isabey not the gardenia but Fleur Nocturne, a fruity drippy white floral that I just adore…
    Well I should go to bed in readiness for the full production tomorrow…

    A wonderful holiday and best wishes to all creeds and beliefs ( and not forgetting that our celebrations do in fact derive from the festivals of the Mother Goddess and Gaia)
    Ah hmmm too much wine
    Great happiness to all!!!

  • mocards says:

    Thanks to all of you for sharing your holiday memories. Each of your stories was very touching and sweet (and funny—thanks, Tom). I have many wonderful childhood memories of Christmas with my family. I just hope I’ve been able to help create some equally wonderful memories for my daughter and grandchildren.
    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to my favorite Posse and its loyal readers! :-)

  • marina says:

    Merry Christmas to the Posse & Tom :)

  • jen says:

    Please enter me – I could use something nice this Xmas.

  • Francesca says:

    Lovely memories! Thank you so much.

    Merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy, fragrant New Year to everyone here.

  • Louise says:

    Beautiful post, thanks to all! My own Christmas experiences are close to Nava’s, with warm neighbors that took me in for a while, gave me a sweet little gift, and embraced this little Jewish girl.

    This year will be a hybrid-no tree, but a few presents exchanged, a chinese buffet, and of course, some movies. The brownies will be decorated, just for a little extra festivity ; )

    Happy Holidays to all!

  • bellemoon says:

    A wonderful post. Thank you all for opening your memory vaults for us! A Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. And may your HG scent be under the tree this year.

  • FragrantWitch says:

    I grew up in New Hampshire, moving to England with my (British) husband 11 years ago. So many of my Christmas memories are so tied up in location- bitter cold, snow, cutting down your own tree and then going caroling in a small town where you knew the inhabitants of each house. I can’t do much about the weather ( although we have had more of a New England than Olde England winter so far) but I try to make sure that my daughters grow up with the traditions I can control like orange spice muffins on Christmas morning, pomanders hanging in the doorways, Boston creme pie after Christmas dinner and bootprints near the tree in the morning along with the empty plate of snacks and note from Santa.
    Wishing all at the Posse a bright and joyous holiday!

  • (Ms.)Christian says:

    I grew up on the East coast, but have lived in CA for 32 years-more than half my life. Every year, I go through the motions of Christmas because without snow and bitter weather, the holiday is not real to me (and no, going to Tahoe does not satisfy ONE EFFING BIT, thank you). So while I don’t hate Christmas here, I really just endure it and do a lot of humming and singing of Joni Mitchell’s “River,”-“oh, it don’t snow here, it stays pretty green…I wish I had a river I could skate away on….”

    So, I am long windedly saying thanks to each one of you for reminding me that somewhere it IS Christmas. Real Christmas.

    • tmp00 says:

      I kind of have to agree with you. Even though I have no desire to go back, I still can’t quite get behind 70 degrees on Christmas.

      • (Ms.)Christian says:

        So glad I am not a lone dissenter here. The 2nd year I was living in L.A., it was 98 degrees on Christmas day. I’d purchased a red mohair sweater to wear for Christmas dinner, but wound up in a sleevless cotton tee.

        No, I don’t want snow from October until March, just for a week or two-12/15 to 12/31.

        • jen says:

          Wierd-I grew up in Phx so I’ve never known cold weather at Xmas; it still seems Christmassy to me getting a tree wearing shorts!

          • (Ms.)Christian says:

            *shudders* It’s what you get used to in your formative years, I think.

            If YOU are happy picking out a tree in shorts, that is what matters the most.