Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve


I am sitting here at the end of this busy day, eating a cookie and enjoying the tree and the quiet.

Today I was peeling oranges for the cranberry salad I make every year (my mother's recipe) and it occurred to me that even more than the smell of the Christmas tree, the sharp, spicy smell of oranges is the smell of Christmas to me. For most of the year I mostly ignore them, but at Christmas I like to have a bowl of them in the house, especially the little mandarinas.  Did you always find a little orange in the toe of your sock on Christmas morning? I did. Nuts, too. In the shell–walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, almonds and hazelnuts. I looked for unshelled nuts today. They were always in a big bin in the produce department in the grocery store. You shoveled all you needed into a paper bag with a big metal scoop.  No more. There are no bins of nuts in Portland grocery stores. Only small, sealed cellophane bags containing pecans or almonds or hazelnuts. When did that happen?

When I was a child we went to church on Christmas Eve. When we were really small we went, bundled in warm coats and mittens over our pajamas, and fell asleep in the car on the way home. The warmth of the old Methodist church, the smell of the candles, the glorious music ("for unto us a child is bo-orn...") put me into a kind of sleepy trance. And then the smell of oranges. As we left the church, headed out into an often cold, snowy night, each little Methodist child was given an orange.

When my children were small we had chili on Christmas Eve and went for a ride in the car to view the Christmas lights, then read The Night Before Christmas from my childhood copy. I wonder if there is a particular thing or smell that they most remember. Maybe the orange and the nuts in their socks. Maybe that Santa always left a new toothbrush in their sock. 

Tonight I watched my granddaughter prepare tea and cookies to leave for Santa, along with a beautifully illustrated thank you note to Santa. She is hoping he will leave her a special doll, which was always my favorite gift from Santa. I can't wait to see her happiness when she opens that gift.

And so, Merry Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah—whatever you celebrate. I wish you the gifts of lovely memories from the past and joy in the current moment, and a delicious cookie and music and peace and—if you want—the sharp, spicy smell of oranges. It's the smell of Christmas, you know.

16 comments:

  1. Nice memories, thanks for sharing. Glad you are safely home. Love, Del

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  2. Merry Christmas Terry!

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  3. What wonderful memories. Sounds amazing. Thank you for sharing. Merry Christmas!

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  4. Yes, a large orange in the toe and a huge red delicious apple at the top. Beyond tradition, they were practical in filling a stocking that would stretch to the floor with girth, once filled! The nut bin at the grocery seemed a very recent memory, but I'm sure you're right about the post consumer packaging..yuck. Merry Christmas friend, enjoy your day.

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  5. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Amen

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  6. Thank you, Terry. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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  7. ..oh exactly..nuts and oranges...the nuts..at least here on the east coast..disappeared several years ago..we used to do big scoops and then careful very particular ones..and crisp december and january nights were full of the smell of nuts roasting....so hard to wait til they cooled enough to crack and open..so nice to know you miss them as well..peace and joy and happy surprises for you and your family this Chrismas cynthia

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  8. Merry Christmas to you and yours! Yes, the oranges and nuts and there was always a bowl filled with nuts with a nutcracker next to it. We always received a box of the little oranges from my Aunt and Uncle because they were so rare back then. For me it is the smell of the Christmas spices - ginger and cinnamon. I always see my Gram and Great Gram as soon as I open the jars. Baking with the two of them, 3 generations (my Mom doesn't cook) is one of my fondest memories. I think I remember more at Christmas time and miss those that have passed on. Memories are the best gift you can give anyone and you are creating some beautiful ones with your grand children. Enjoy the joy in Sofia's eyes, my favorite part is the happiness that flows freely with kids. Have a Merry!

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  9. Anonymous3:07 PM

    Yes, This Methodist girl always has an orange, apple and nuts, plus ribbon candy in the stocking. I was told that my Dad and aunt always got an orange at Christmas and it was the only time of year they had that special treat. Nice memories you have written and saved for your family.

    Marken

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  10. I love the smell of oranges! And I remember a bowl of shelled nuts on the table with a nutcracker in every home when I was young. And a plate of assorted home baked cookies and if we were lucky a box of candy. No stockings at our home but presents on christmas Eve after we walked the neighborhood to look at the trees in the windows. My mom was always late joining us.(smile) Santa came while we were walking. My dad was a policeman and had to work midnight mass traffic and then Christmas morning.

    Thank you for reminding me of Christmas past. Happy Holiday to you and yours!!!

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  11. I always got an orange too. And new pencils. Now, we have mandarins on the counter all season long so putting one in the stocking doesn't seem so special. I'm not sure what my kids will remember about Santa. Maybe that he always uses tissue paper to wrap the gifts.

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  12. Winco!!! They have the big bin of mixed nuts in the shell. Walnuts, almonds, brazils, hazelnuts. I love it. My mom made me a wreath covered in those nuts. I love it. I also look forward to the little satsuma mandarin orange crates that appear in the stores just before xmas. Happy Holidays!

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  13. Anonymous6:23 PM

    Oranges, nuts and a more recent addition...a small bag of gold foil wrapped coins for the card games that follow dinner Christmas Day. I love traditions and watching the next generation pick them up. Merry Christmas with a healthy and happy New Year!
    Sally P

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  14. Hope you had a wonderful day - we did!. We can still buy loose nuts in the UK - not in the supermarkets, though; they love their packaging. Re the post below; Andy's teeth look perfect!

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  15. Julie8:00 PM

    We always studded oranges with cloves in various designs at Thanksgiving and put them in a bowl. As they dried, they scented the air. We would hang them from the Christmas tree with ribbon and that is my favorite Christmas smell. But my daughter in law couldn't stand the scent so we no longer do that.

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